Plenty rides on Wisconsin's newest coaching hire as Chryst linked

Wisconsin likely to hire former Badgers assistant for head coaching job (©GettyImages)

Wisconsin is clearly one of the most-enticing head coaching jobs in the country, and yet somehow the program is caught in a hiring carousel after a surprising end to the season.

Bret Bielema headed the program from 2006 to 2012 and during that time he brought the program to great success, earning a conference title in 2011. And when Bielema left to coach the Arkansas Razorbacks, Gary Anderson took over and has gone 19-7 since.

More changes

But the program that had two coaches from 1990 until 2012 is suddenly facing its second head coach hire in two years, after Anderson decided to take a job to coach the much less-heralded Oregon State Beavers.

Why did Anderson bolt? That much isn't clear, though Badgers athletic director Barry Alvarez said it was due to family considerations.

Now the biggest question though is who can come in and take over a Wisconsin team with high expectations in the still-competitive Big 10?

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Early frontrunner

A former Wisconsin assistant is likely to be the new man for the job, a source told ESPN.com. Paul Chryst, who is now the head coach at Pittsburgh, is said to be the team's next head honcho.

As of last week, Alvarez still insisted that the position had not been settled on: "We are continuing the process of finding our new head football coach," he wrote in a statement.

But Alvarez did meet with Chryst in Tampa, Florida last week, according to reports from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also met informally with Greg Schiano, who previously coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Rutgers.

Chryst has not said publicly that he was leaving Pittsburgh to join Wisconsin, but he is thought to be interested in the job if it is offered.

Best candidate

What makes Chryst such an enticing prospect?

Well, for one, he is loyal to a fault. Chryst was hired in December 2011 after three other coaches forfeited the job in a little more than a year. But while those coaches bolted or didn't stick, the former Badgers quarterback stayed for three years.

He has gone 19-19 in that time and while his team went 6-6 this year, his reputation on the offensive end has remained intact. Pittsburgh's rushing attack is 16th in the country, averaging 251 yards per game.

Chryst also has deep Wisconsin ties, a Madison native who played quarterback for the Badgers from 1986 to 1988. He was the tight ends coach in 2002 and was the offensive coordinator from 2005 to 2011.

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