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Indiana football: The case for Paul Chryst

Breaking down Chryst’s case to be the Hoosiers’ head coach.

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Illinois v Wisconsin Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

Paul Chryst is an interesting option for Indiana’s vacant head coaching position.

On one hand, he won quite a few games at Wisconsin during his eight years leading the Badgers. On the other, he left the program amid a slow decline that ultimately led to his midseason firing.

His is a name that has come up when it comes to the job and he fulfills more than a few qualifications Indiana seems to be looking for. Let’s look into the pluses and minuses:


The Upside

The whole of Chryst’s resume speaks for itself, he went 67-26 in Madison after a short stint at Pitt and won the West more than a few times. Chryst won 50 games in his first five seasons as the head coach of Wisconsin, a feat only surpassed in the Big Ten by Urban Meyer at Ohio State.

It wasn’t just the regular season either, Chryst went an impressive 6-1 in bowl games with two of them being coveted New Years Six victories. No Wisconsin head coach has produced more All-Americans in a single season than Chryst did in 2017.

The year before that, Wisconsin went 11-1 against a schedule including six AP top-ten teams. Chryst won Big Ten Coach of the Year for that effort.

Chryst is an offensive mind and former quarterback for the Badgers. His teams were known for offensive line play and running the ball with decent to good quarterback play. As offensive coordinator, he oversaw multiple explosive offenses with quarterbacks like Scott Tolzein.

His offensive background doesn’t mean he neglects the defensive side of the ball, far from it. Wisconsin’s defenses were among the best in the country across multiple coordinators during Chryst’s time in Madison.

Should Indiana hire Chryst, it’d have a head coach with a proven track record for winning in the Big Ten and postseason.

The Downside

Chryst was fired for a reason. The Athletic wrote a detailed story on what went into Wisconsin’s decision to part ways with him.

Chryst went 15-10 and just 9-8 in the Big Ten after 2020. That’s good at Indiana. Not so much at Wisconsin which, based on his firing and the following hire, expects to compete for Big Ten championships.

Wisconsin’s recruiting department was abysmal in the final few years of Chryst’s time in Madison. Prospects showing up to gamedays and apparently not even hearing from the staff.

Indiana, to its credit, made strides in its recruiting department in the final years of Allen’s time in Bloomington. Chryst stood pat while other programs poured resources into recruiting and paid the price for it.

A lack of adjusting to the new environment, NIL and the realities of the portal, were cited as reasons for Wisconsin’s decline under Chryst.

Chryst’s flaws as a program CEO were similar to those of Allen. Until Nick Sheridan, Darren Hiller and Walt Bell, Allen had never fired an assistant at Indiana. Chryst, during his eight years in Madison never once fired an assistant for poor performance.

He’s been called loyal to a fault. Good when it comes to players buying in. Bad when one coach is clearly the weak link on a staff. Ask Indiana fans how that’s worked out recently.

Chryst’s offense stalled. The defense, ever sturdy, eventually gave out against Ohio State and Illinois.

The good news? Indiana has a decently robust recruiting operation that Chryst could walk into if he’s willing to let it operate. Social media and graphics are there and quite good.

Additionally, Chryst has spent this season in an advisory role to Steve Sarkisian at Texas. The Longhorns run one of the top recruiting programs in the country and pour resources into it. The results are plain to see on the field every Saturday.

Maybe some time in Austin helped Chryst adjust to what helps a modern program run. Maybe.

In the era of NIL, I’d imagine Indiana is making it a priority and emphasizing it to any potential hires.