With Wisconsin on a bye week this weekend, it was a good time to reflect on the Badgers through the first 10 games of the season. There have been some close calls for Wisconsin, including a 23-21 win at Nebraska and a 31-24 victory at Maryland, but the Badgers have lost just twice and those losses have come against a surging Alabama Crimson Tide and surprisingly undefeated Iowa Hawkeyes squad on pace to appear in the Big Ten Championship Game. One sportswriter in Wisconsin says the first year under Paul Chryst already helps show the program is on more solid ground than it was under his predecessor, Gary Andersen. He’s not wrong.
“While understandable given how UW has generally steamrolled lesser opponents in recent years, such concern is unfounded,” Tom Oates of Madison.com says of Wisconsin’s season to date. “If anything, people should be encouraged about the future because the program is headed in a better direction today than it was a year ago at this time.”
When Bret Bielema left Wisconsin for Arkansas, athletics director Barry Alvarez opted to bring in Andersen from Utah State to take over the program. Andersen was coming off a 11-2 season with the Aggies, with one of those losses coming at Wisconsin (16-14) and a victory in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. By most accounts, it was a solid hire for the Badgers, and in fact it was. Wisconsin went 9-4 in Andersen’s first season in Madison and 10-3 the following season, which ended in a 59-0 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. Between the Big Ten title game blowout loss and the bowl season, Andersen skipped town and headed west to take over at Oregon State after Mike Riley accepted a job offer from Nebraska. That led Wisconsin to bringing Chryst home after the former Badgers player and assistant coach got some head coaching experience at Pittsburgh. The benefit of hindsight has allowed Oates to suggest the entire hiring of Andersen was an error.
“Instead of laughing derisively as Andersen’s losses pile up, they should be thanking him profusely for realizing what has become apparent in the 11 months since he left: His hiring at UW was a colossal mistake.
Please, don’t misunderstand that. UW athletic director Barry Alvarez hired a good coach in Andersen, he just hired the wrong coach. Andersen has solid credentials and is a great guy, but he was a bad fit for UW. It’s as simple as that.”
Some programs benefit from having a coach in place that truly understands the program and what it takes to lead it on and off the field. Chryst is about as close to home as Wisconsin could have gotten from the start, and perhaps the wait was worth it as Chryst got seasoned as a head coach at Pitt before returning to Wisconsin. Chryst may not be a flashy guy that will serve up a handful of quotes to fill sportswriters’ columns, but he gets Wisconsin from top to bottom and is a very good fit for the program.