UW: Chryst out as Badgers head coach, Jim Leonhard will take over

Published: Oct. 2, 2022 at 6:24 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Wisconsin Athletic Director Chris McIntosh announced Sunday that defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard will be taking over for previous Wisconsin Football head coach Paul Chryst.

Chryst was in his eighth season as the Badgers’ head coach as the decision to fire him was made.

“After a heartfelt and authentic conversation with Coach Chryst about what is in the long-term best interest of our football program, I have concluded that now is the time for a change in leadership,” McIntosh said. “Paul is a man of integrity who loves his players. I have great respect and admiration for Paul and the legacy of him and his family at the University of Wisconsin.”

University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin took to twitter to express her gratitude for Paul Chryst’s time as head coach at Wisconsin for seven years.

Throughout his time as head coach, Chryst led the Badgers to a 67-26 record, with a 43-18 mark in Big Ten Conference play, according to Wisconsin Athletics. Chryst took the team to a 6-1 mark in bowl games, including two New Year’s Six victories. He was also able to guide the team to three West Division titles.

“This is certainly not a decision that’s taken lightly,” UW Athletic Director Chris McIntosh said Sunday evening at a press conference held at Camp Randall, the Badgers home stadium. “It’s not a game-by-game decision. This is a decision that’s based on where we’re at as a program.”

This decision comes just one day after Wisconsin lost at home 34-10 to Illinois and former Badgers coach Bret Bielema.

Star running back Braelon Allen also hopped in on the conversation on Twitter, standing behind Chryst.

Chryst had four years left on his contract as head coach for the Badgers, where he was set to make $5.25 million this season. McIntosh declined to answer questions about the specifics of Chryst’s buyout, saying that he would address it at a later date.

“What I can tell you today is that the number that we agreed to is significantly less than the number that have been reported, or even the number that would have been due per the terms of his contract,” McIntosh said.

Leonhard, the new interim head coach, is in his seventh season as the defensive coordinator for the Badgers. McIntosh said that in his time at Wisconsin, he has overseen one of the best defensive units in college football.

“I also have confidence in Jim Leonhard to guide the program for the remainder of the season. There is still a lot of season left to play and I know Jim will do a great job while the program is under his leadership,” McIntosh added.

As an All-American safety for the Badgers, Leonhard set the school record with 21 career interceptions. He wasn’t drafted with the NFL but played with Buffalo, Baltimore, the New York Jets, Denver, New Orleans and Cleveland. He played in 142 games as a pro, starting 73 of them, officials said.

Leonhard said it was an emotional day for him. Chryst gave him his start in coaching with no previous experience.

“This place means a ton to myself,” Leonhard said. “We want more, we want better and that’s my goal is to try to help get us in that direction.”

Wisconsin plays at Northwestern on Saturday.

McIntosh said he “owed it to the players” to do a full coaching search “when the time is right,” but that his main focus for right now was the players emotional health.

“It goes without saying this is an incredibly tough day for our program, specifically for the players on this team. Going forward, our priority is to support them both immediately and as the season unfolds,” McIntosh explained.

In a tweet early Sunday evening, ESPN reporter Adam Rittenburg reported that Paul Chryst will no longer be the Wisconsin Badgers’ head coach.

Fans also shared some reactions to the game immediately after the breaking news. Fans, too, shared the sentiment of wanting to get better but remorseful over the departure of Chryst in the process of changing for the future.

“As a fan not surprised. Disappointed for him--I think he’s a great person, a great man but probably not the most innovative coach and the right thing to move us forward at the pace that people want to see it,” said Scott Schoen, a UW-Madison alum.

Following the Sunday night press conference, a Wisconsin Athletics spokesperson said there would not be the typical Monday media availability from coaches or players, saying players would be available later in the week.

This story has been contributed to by the Associated Press.