Wisconsin fires Paul Chryst, Jim Leonhard takes over as interim coach | College Football Enquirer

Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel, and Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger discuss Wisconsin’s decision to fire head coach Paul Chryst after 8 years with the Badgers, and debate if it was the right move to give Jim Leonhard a shot to lead the team or if the Badgers should try to lure in Kansas coach Lance Leipold after the season.

Video Transcript

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DAN WETZEL: Let us start with Wisconsin.

PAT FORDE: Yeah.

DAN WETZEL: We did not see Paul Chryst being fired on Sunday. Wisconsin, a program that seems to move slowly in everything, that hadn't fired a football coach since 1989, and-- I think you had this, Ross-- had not fired a basketball coach since 1995, moves to fire him one day after Brett Bielema walks into Madison like he still owns the place and just steamrolls them.

Chryst had a great run for a while there, three Big Ten West titles in the first five years, four 10-win seasons. Since then, just 15 and 10 overall. Team looked terrible this year. Thoughts on making this move that quickly. I'm not saying it wasn't the right move or the inevitable move. It just felt like a can't deal with it one more second. We'll pay you $11 million to get out of here.

PAT FORDE: Yeah, Paul Chryst is as Wisconsin as it gets, even more than Jim Leonhard, who everybody-- oh, he's a Wisconsin guy. Well, Paul Chryst was born in Madison, lived for six years within a couple of blocks of the stadium while his dad was an assistant coach, played at Wisconsin, assistant coach at Wisconsin, head coach at Wisconsin, and won a lot of games. A lot of games there.

To not let Paul Chryst try to turn it around, at least finish the season? That, to me, tells me a lot about where college football is, where it's gone, where it will continue to go. Money keeps going up, desperation keeps going up. We must win. And I just would say beware what you get next. It better be good.

Because those are the same things I heard at Texas when they ran out Mack Brown. Then they brought in Charlie Strong, who went 16 and 21. Same things I heard at Texas when they got rid of Tom Herman, who was 32 and 18. Well, how's Steve Sarkisian doing? He's 8 and 9.

Same things we heard at Auburn two years ago when they ran out Gus Malzahn, whose last three years were intolerable. He was 23 and 13. Bryan Harsin's 9 and 9, and they're firing him any time now. So if you're going to do it, you better get it right. Because you're just costing yourself a lot of money and hoping you can replicate something.

ROSS DELLENGER: Yeah, we have a lot of good examples of this, and you mentioned some good ones, Pat. And also I'll throw in there Bo Pelini at Nebraska when they fired him. His record and all his stats are actually fairly similar to Paul Chryst's stats at Wisconsin. But I wonder if this wasn't thought about a little more. Jim Leonhard feels like he's a guy that could have had other head coaching jobs in the past maybe, and he stayed at Wisconsin.

And you wonder if this was always kind of somewhat a plan to give Jim Leonhard a shot. He's got, what, seven games. And you got to think if he goes like 5 and 2 or something or better that he might just get that job. So this feels like it has a little pre-planning that maybe happened with an eye toward Leonhard being the new coach.

DAN WETZEL: OK, I don't disagree with you on that. But the Jim Leonhard-- OK, give him a shot, all that. They just lost 34 to 10 to Illinois. Are you that excited about the defensive coordinator?

[LAUGHTER]

So what's realistic? Is Jim Leonhard that guy? Or do you get somebody else if-- I mean, obviously, he has the inside track. But is this a place where a coach, I would think, would be pretty interested in? Because I think there's a lot going for it.

PAT FORDE: Yeah, I mean, there's a lot going for it. But it is not self-sustaining, automatic you're winning 10, 11 games every year. I mean, if that's the thought, then they might be deluding themselves. But I think kind of what they're hoping is that Jim Leonhard could be their Kirby Smart. If you go to where Georgia when Georgia pushed out Mark Richt, who was successful--

DAN WETZEL: Very good.

PAT FORDE: --and won a lot of games and was a great guy. And everybody liked Mark Richt. It was like we are sure this assistant coach, who has never been a head coach, is going to be a rock star. And you go and get him, and it worked out. That's what they're hoping with Jim Leonhard. Or are you trying to get in on a Lance Leipold derby? The Kansas coach who's 5 and 0 there, which is virtually impossible--

DAN WETZEL: And coached at Whitewater.

PAT FORDE: --and has deep Wisconsin--

DAN WETZEL: Yeah.

PAT FORDE: Yeah, deep Wisconsin ties. From the state. Was an absolute DIII coaching legend in the state. Again, I think they want to give Leonhard a chance first. But if the next six weeks or so don't go well, I wouldn't be shocked if they want in on Lance Leipold.

ROSS DELLENGER: Who would have thought we'd be here talking about a bidding war derby for the Kansas football coach? But here we are on October 4th, yeah, talking about the biggest name maybe, or one of the biggest names in this carousel, this cycle, being Lance Leopold and his Kansas Jayhawks. But here we are. But, yeah, maybe it certainly would be-- if Jim doesn't work out, it makes a lot of sense for Lance to come on to a place and a state that he's obviously very familiar with.