Wisconsin brings Pitt's Chryst home as coach
GENARO C. ARMAS
Dec. 18, 2014
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Paul Chryst is back at Wisconsin, settling into familiar surroundings in his hometown.
This time, with a bigger office.
Chryst was hired Wednesday to coach the Badgers, completing a whirlwind week for the Madison native and his alma mater following the surprising departure of Gary Andersen for Oregon State.
"I asked my mom ... 'Are you sure you want us back?'" Chryst said jokingly after an introductory news conference that felt more like a homecoming ceremony.
Chryst, a former Wisconsin offensive coordinator, leaves Pittsburgh after going 19-19 in three seasons.
He had plenty of support in the crowd for his arrival at Wisconsin. Folksy and down-to-earth, Chryst seems as if he is the perfect fit for the workmanlike program. No wonder athletic director Barry Alvarez called Chryst first when the job became open for the second time in three seasons.
"It's really special," Chryst said when asked if this was his dream job. "I grew up in Madison. As early as I can remember, Badger football as a part of (my) life."
The 49-year-old Chryst had two prior stints as an assistant for the Badgers. Most notably, he was part of the Wisconsin staff from 2005-11, helping the Badgers to five double-digit victory seasons and two Rose Bowls.
He was coordinator in 2011 when the high-scoring Badgers featured quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Montee Ball.
Chryst started at Pittsburgh in 2012. When Bret Bielema left Wisconsin for Arkansas after the 2012 Big Ten championship game, Alvarez said then that he would not pursue Chryst for the opening after helping him get his first head-coaching job at Pitt.
Andersen ended up in Madison, and left almost exactly two years later to take over the Beavers. He departed Wisconsin on Dec. 10, the same day that star running back and Heisman Trophy finalist Melvin Gordon announced he was skipping his senior season to enter the NFL draft.
Gordon's departure was expected; Andersen's move was a stunner after leading the Badgers to a 19-7 record in two seasons.
With the job open again, Chryst quickly rose to the top of the list as a potential replacement. This time, there no was hesitation on Wisconsin's side.
Unlike Andersen, a Utah native who spent most of his coaching career in the West, Chryst has roots in Madison. He remains a popular figure at Wisconsin, and the school added a dose of fanfare at his introductory news conference with a small band set up to left of a stage at the school's basketball practice court.
"To continue to grow and learn, and then leave and be able to come back ... Coach, I appreciate that, more than you know," said Chryst, turning to Alvarez, also a former Wisconsin coach.
Finding someone with Wisconsin ties wasn't a requirement, Alvarez said, but it did help. Chryst is very familiar with the higher academic standards at Wisconsin — which may also have a trickle-down effect on recruiting.
While the Badgers look to Chryst for stability, his departure throws Pitt back into uncertainty.
The Panthers will be in the football coach market for the fourth time since Dave Wannstedt was let go after the 2010 season. Chryst was hired by athletic director Steve Pederson, who will not get another opportunity to select a Pitt coach. Pederson was fired on Wednesday in the wake of Chryst's departure.
Chryst's level-headed approach provided a needed dose of levity at Pittsburgh after a rocky 13 months prior to his arrival. He said all the right things on the day he was hired, calling the Panthers a "destination" program and volunteering to put a buyout clause into his contract.
Results on the field were mixed. Each of his three regular seasons with the Panthers ended with a 6-6 record, mixing statement wins with puzzling losses.
But there appear to be pieces in place at Pitt for a real turnaround. One of the youngest rosters in the country, with 80 freshmen and sophomores, includes running back James Conner — who was named the ACC Player of the Year after piling up 1,675 yards and a school-record 24 touchdowns.
The school had approached Chryst about an extension before this season and details were never finalized.
AP Sports Writer Will Graves in Pittsburgh contributed to this story.