Chryst si­lenc­ing crit­ics at Wis­con­sin

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

MADI­SON, Wis. — Paul Chryst was a feel-good hire in the win­ter of 2014.

The Wis­con­sin na­tive, who had played and coached at UW, re­turned home af­ter three years as the head coach at Pitts­burgh.

He was in­tro­duced as UW’s 30th head coach on Dec. 17, 2014. That came one week af­ter ath­letic di­rec­tor Barry Al­varez learned Gary An­der­sen was leav­ing be­fore the end of his sec­ond sea­son in Madi­son to take over the Ore­gon State pro­gram.

Still sting­ing from the stun­ning de­par­ture of Bret Bielema, who left UW for Arkansas just days af­ter the 2012 Big Ten ti­tle game, Al­varez was de­ter­mined to land a qual­ity coach who also viewed UW as more than a rental prop­erty to use be­fore look­ing for a per­ma­nent home.

Chryst was the ob­vi­ous choice, though he wasn’t uni­ver­sally em­braced. Some UW fans ex­pressed con­cern about his 19-19 record in three sea­sons at Pitts­burgh, in­clud­ing a 5-9 mark in games de­cided by seven points or fewer, and won­dered whether he had the chops to re­cruit well enough

to keep UW in con­tention for Big Ten ti­tles.

Af­ter two sea­sons, Chryst and his as­sis­tants have done just about all they can to si­lence any crit­ics. UW is 21-6 un­der Chryst, in­clud­ing an 8-5 mark in games de­cided by seven points or fewer, and has one Big Ten West Di­vi­sion ti­tle and two bowl vic­to­ries. The 2017 Big Ten meet­ings are set to be held to­day and Tues­day in Chicago and the Badgers, who nav­i­gated a bru­tal sched­ule to fin­ish 11-3 and No. 9 in both na­tional polls last sea­son, re­ceived 31 of 38 first-place votes from a panel of Big Ten vot­ers to win the 2017 West Di­vi­sion ti­tle.

“I’m one of those who did have some ques­tions about Paul as a head coach af­ter the time at Pitt,” Lee Bar­fknecht, a long­time colum­nist for the Omaha World-Her­ald said. “But I think go­ing back to Wis­con­sin to­tally got him into his com­fort zone. And maybe be­ing out of his com­fort zone at Pitt helped him grow as a coach. He prob­a­bly had to deal with some things he hadn’t seen or dealt with be­fore.

“I think he is such a hand­with-glove guy with what is go­ing on at Wis­con­sin. I was re­ally im­pressed with the job the coach­ing staff did last year — with the of­fen­sive line in­juries and the line be­ing far be­low what Wis­con­sin folks are used to. …” UW’s three losses last sea­son each came by seven points — to Ohio State, Penn State and Michi­gan. Those teams fin­ished No. 6, No. 7 and No. 10 in the fi­nal Amway coaches poll.

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