In one of the first shocking moves of the 2022 college football season, the Wisconsin Badgers decided to move on from long-time head coach Paul Chryst. With plenty of worthy candidates already being linked to the open position, it makes sense that this could very well be the most intriguing job that needs to be filled.
In his seven-plus seasons as the Badgers’ head coach, Chryst produced an impressive 67-26 record, earning a bowl appearance each year and only losing one of those games (a one-point Rose Bowl defeat). His success was evident from the beginning, having served as the team’s offensive coordinator prior to taking on the head role.
Chryst is a prototypical coach for the Wisconsin program, having played for them back in the day. He made his way through the coaching ranks, including being the head coach at the University of Pittsburgh, a role he had until the Badgers came calling to bring him home.
Firing a coach with that kind of record is quite surprising, especially for a school like Wisconsin that enjoys consistency sometimes more than winning. The impact that Chryst has made on the football program expands beyond on-field results, as many current and former Badger players have spoken about their support for Chryst and how he helped turn them into better people and players.
But college football is turning into a business as each day passes, and Chryst’s 2-3 start this year was not one that the Athletic Department was comfortable moving forward with. An amicable separation looks to be best for both Chryst and the program, and now the Badgers get to make an exciting decision as to who will lead their football program.
For Athletic Director Chris McIntosh, this is his first big move after taking over in his current role, and the following three candidates should be on his shortlist for the next HC.
3. Matt Campbell
Currently serving as the head coach for the Iowa State Cyclones, Matt Campbell has ties to the Badgers, dating back to being tied to their 2012 head coaching vacancy. At the time, Campbell was the head coach at Toledo and had turned the program around, and according to reports, was seriously being considered for the role at that point in time.
Flash forward 10 years, and Campbell has enjoyed a solid amount of success leading the Cyclones – producing an 81-45 record across seven-plus seasons, including five consecutive winning records and bowl appearances.
Campbell may not be the sexy hire that earns all of the headlines, but that makes him the perfect solution for the Badgers. He is an accomplished, offensive-minded coach that could finally bring Wisconsin’s offense into the 21st century, something that is long overdue.
2. Lance Leipold
The first of two coaching candidates with ties to the state of Wisconsin, Lance Leipold is one of the most polarizing head coaches in the NCAA and has resurrected the Kansas Jayhawks from the college football graveyard.
Known for being strictly a basketball school with a terrible football team, Leipold has led a miraculous recovery of this team in less than two full seasons. While his first year (2-10 record) was more of the same struggles for the Jayhawks, Leipold has Kansas undefeated through its first five games and ranked 19th in the country.
Leipold made a name for himself as the head coach for Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, a school he won six DIII National Championships with and only lost six games over eight seasons. From there, he made the massive jump from D3 to D1, taking over Buffalo and leading the Bulls to three consecutive winning seasons, the first time in 20 years.
As a Wisconsin native, Leipold is still highly regarded in the state and would certainly be given the red-carpet treatment if welcomed back to lead a resurgence with the Badgers. Choosing the hometown kid would certainly rank strongly with both the fan base and boosters, and Leipold checks plenty of boxes.
1. Jim Leonard
Currently, defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard is taking on the interim head coaching role for the Badgers, a role that many Badgers fans are likely hoping does not include the interim tag. Having been both a player and assistant coach for Wisconsin, Leonhard looks to be the clubhouse favorite for the full-time role, and for good reason.
After his NFL career ended, Leonhard eventually made his way back to the Badgers, joining their defensive coaching staff. Having suited up at safety and becoming one of the most well-known names in the past 30+ years, Leonhard ascended the coaching ladder before becoming the defensive coordinator.
Having passed on many opportunities to leave for more money and better opportunities, including being offered the defensive coordinator position for the Green Bay Packers, Leonhard finally gets a chance to see his waiting game come to fruition.
Giving Leonhard a shot at the big gig is a home-run decision for McIntosh and the Athletic Department – if Leonhard does not pan out during his extended job interview, then back to the drawing board; but if he does pan out, he can have the interim tag removed, fulfilling an outcome that many fans of the program have wanted for a very, very long time.