Chryst returns home, named football coach at Wisconsin
When Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez asked Paul Chryst if he was ready to coach the school's football team, the answer was a decided yes.
“I'm ready,” Chryst said Wednesday night as he was introduced as the Badgers' next coach. “But (I'm) more ready now.”
Chryst can thank Pitt and the three years he spent learning how to be a head coach, a position he never held before coming to Pittsburgh three years ago almost to the day.
“I wasn't looking to go anywhere,” said Chryst, 49. “But I knew this was a place (where) I wanted to talk to (Alvarez) and explore. To be able to come back to Wisconsin truly is special. It is something you don't take for granted.”
Alvarez said he keeps a list of coaching candidates in the event of a vacancy. It came in handy Dec. 10, when Gary Andersen resigned to become coach at Oregon State.
“(Chryst's) work (at Pitt) moved him right to the top of the list,” Alvarez said at a news conference in Madison, Wis., that included cheerleaders and the university band.
The mood wasn't as festive in Pittsburgh, where university chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced the firing of athletic director Steve Pederson during the Chryst news conference.
Pitt named offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph as interim football coach, and the university said it will conduct nationwide searches to replace Chryst and Pederson.
Alvarez said the buyout in Chryst's Pitt contract was $3 million, equal to the buyout Oregon State must pay to Wisconsin after hiring Andersen.
Except for the three seasons he spent in Pittsburgh during which he went 19-19, Chryst has lived in Wisconsin his entire life, evolving from all-state high school quarterback to Badgers assistant and now to head coach of his alma mater.
Platteville High School teammate Jace Martens said fans are “ecstatic” for Chryst's return.
“He's a Wisconsin guy. Everyone knows him,” Martens said. “If it wasn't Wisconsin, he'd never have left Pitt. He's home now. This is where he belongs.”
That also was the case two years ago when Chryst appeared to be the best candidate for the job after Bret Bielema left for Arkansas.
Having recommended Chryst to Pitt officials only a year earlier, Alvarez refused to hire his former assistant.
“They were a struggling program,” Alvarez said of Pitt, which lost two coaches in 2011 after firing Dave Wannstedt. “They needed someone to come in and stabilize it.”
When Chryst started finding success, no matter how slight, Alvarez said he was certain he had found his man.
“You can't prepare for someone to be a head coach and touch all the bases,” he said. “The things Paul has learned, how he has built the team and recruited some of the top players in the ACC, those are all things that resonated with me.”
Chryst was accompanied at the news conference by wife Robin and their three children. Daughters Katy and JoJo are students at Pitt, and son Danny is a senior at Pine-Richland.
Chryst is returning to Wisconsin for a third time after playing quarterback and tight end there and graduating in 1988 with a political science degree. He was tight ends coach in 2002 and offensive coordinator for Alvarez and Bielema from 2005-2011.
“As great as today is,” Chryst said, “I don't want this to be the best day.”