Skip to main content

Wisconsin Football: Coaching Candidates to Replace Paul Chryst

Paul Chryst

Wisconsin fired coach Paul Chryst on Sunday. Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard will work as the team's interim coach for the remainder of the 2022 season. Chryst was 67-26 as the head coach of the Badgers and never had a losing season. However, the Badgers have been trending in the wrong direction over the last couple of years. Wisconsin is just 9-8 in Big Ten play since the start of '20.

Who could replace Chryst at Wisconsin? Here are some names to watch:

Wisconsin Football: Coaching Candidates to Replace Paul Chryst

Dave Aranda, Head Coach, Baylor
This is probably a longshot, but Aranda worked at Wisconsin from 2013-15 as the program's defensive coordinator. He also has stints as an assistant at Houston, Hawaii, Utah State and LSU before becoming the head coach at Baylor. The Bears went 2-7 in '20 and improved to 12-2 with a Big 12 title in '21. Baylor is 3-2 through five weeks of '22. 

Matt Campbell, Head Coach, Iowa State
Campbell's name is already popping up in searches this year, as Nebraska could target the Iowa State coach. The Ohio native went 35-15 at Toledo starting with the 2011 bowl to '15. He was hired at Iowa State prior to '16, and after a 3-9 mark in his debut, has led the Cyclones to 42 wins over the last six years. Campbell is 80-51 overall as a head coach at the FBS level.

Lance Leipold, Head Coach, Kansas
Leipold is the hot name for open jobs this offseason and could be a candidate at Nebraska. However, Leipold is a native of Wisconsin and previously worked at Wisconsin-Whitewater as the head coach from 2007-14. Under his watch, the Warhawks went 109-6 and won six Division III titles. Leipold was hired at Buffalo in '15 and went 37-33 over six seasons, including a 10-win campaign in '18. After a 2-10 debut at Kansas last year, the Jayhawks are 5-0 in '22. Considering his ties to the state of Wisconsin, this job could be very appealing for Leipold.

Sean Lewis, Head Coach, Kent State
Lewis played his college ball in Madison, so fit is not a concern as he knows this program. The Dino Babers' protege went 2-10 in his debut as the head coach at Kent State (2018). However, the Golden Flashes – one of the MAC's toughest jobs – are 19-17 over the last three years and won the East Division in '21. This would be a big leap for Lewis, but he's ready to run a Power 5 program.

Jim Leonhard, Defensive Coordinator, Wisconsin
Leonhard will get a chance to build a case for the full-time job over the team's final seven games. Few coaches know the job as well as Leonhard does, as he's a Wisconsin native and played safety for the program. After a stint in the NFL, Leonhard was hired as an assistant at Wisconsin in '16 and became the team's defensive coordinator in '17. Under Leonhard's watch, the Badgers have consistently ranked among the Big Ten's best on defense.

Matt Rhule, Head Coach, Carolina Panthers
Rhule sits squarely on the hot seat after Carolina's 1-3 start and a return to a college sideline could be coming if things don't turn around in the NFL. The New York native went 28-23 at Temple from 2013-16 and finished 19-20 during a three-year run at Baylor (2017-19). Rhule is 11-26 with the Panthers.

Justin Wilcox, Head Coach, California
Wilcox might be a longshot here, but he's a former Wisconsin assistant and has been a successful coach at a tough job. The Oregon native coordinated the Badgers' defense in '16 and is 29-30 as the head coach of the Golden Bears. California has been to two bowl games under Wilcox's direction.