Paul Chryst Fired: Students, family friend react to first UW football coach fired since 1989

MADISON, Wis. — The sudden ouster of Wisconsin Badgers head football coach Paul Chryst on Sunday has left fans divided, with some saying the move was the right one while others say it feels disrespectful.

Chryst’s removal marked the program’s first firing since 1989. His 67-21 record gave him the second-best winning percentage in program history at .720.

The eighth-year coach brought the Badgers to three New Year’s Six Bowl appearances and three division titles. After cracking the AP Poll’s top five three times in his first four years, the coach struggled recently, leading the team to a 15-10 record since the 2019 Rose Bowl and a 2-3 start to the 2022 season.

Chryst proved to be a consistent winner but didn’t meet the program’s expectations in recent years, leaving the Badger faithful with varying opinions.

“I love Paul Chryst, I think he’s a good guy, but I think it was the right move to make,” UW-Madison freshman Simon Ross said.

“I was relieved, I thought it was time for it to happen,” senior Charlie Dern, a sports media major, said. “After the Ohio State game, it really showed the gap between ourselves and the next step we needed to take. Then when we got blown out by Illinois, I thought it was clear and obvious that we needed to move on.”

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For John Roach, a lifelong friend who grew up next door to Chryst. the firing cuts deep.

While Roach feels confident in Jim Leonhard, he found the mid-season move disrespectful.

I do think there’s the chance that folks will look back at Paul’s record wistfully, everyone wants to win a national championship, and we have a better platform to do so because of Barry, and Bret, and not so much Gary Anderson, but certainly Paul who did all the right things the right way,” he said.

Chryst grew up in Madison, played for the Badgers and embodies Wisconsin.

“If you watch him by nature, he’s been a pretty humble head coach, which I personally find charming and in his own way really representative of the best of Wisconsin and of the Madison community,” Roach said. “I don’t know if you noticed, but he never ran out ahead of the players, he followed the players he let them have the stage.”

On Chryst’s career, Roach said, “I think it was just thrilling for a lot of people to see Paul run the program because it goes back to when Pat Richter was an All-American and became the Athletic Director, it all been in the family, now Barry (Alvarez) was from the outside and kind of a disruptor and we need that, he created a really great model, but Paul came in and carried on that model wonderfully, and had a better winning record than Barry.”

Chryst’s Madison roots run deep, making his departure a blow to the community, Roach said.

“Like pretty much all of Madison, we all know the Chrysts, which is why we were so proud of Paul and Robin and the job they did for the last seven or eight years, and that’s why the decision by Chris McIntosh was kind of shocking, to be dismissed mid-season given his .720 winning record,” he said.