Paul Chryst returns home as Wisconsin's newest head coach
MADISON, Wis. -- It turns out you can go home again. At least that’s the case for Paul Chryst, the Madison native, three-time Badgers letterwinner and former eight-year assistant coach at Wisconsin. On Wednesday night, Chryst returned to his roots when he was introduced as the 30th head coach in UW history.
“I’d like to thank Coach Alvarez for this wonderful opportunity,” Chryst said. “This is obviously a special place not only for me but our whole family. I would also like to thank the players, staff and administration at Pitt for the last three years. I’m proud of what I helped to accomplish there and appreciate the support I’ve received. Pitt will always have a special place in my heart.
“It’s a bit overwhelming to be able to come back to a place where you grew up, went to school and coached, where you have so many ties personally and professionally. This job has everything that we, as a family, and me, personally, are looking for. The bar has been set at a high level here and it didn’t just happen. I look forward to the challenge of continuing that tradition of success.”
Before spending the past three seasons as the head coach at Pittsburgh, where he led the Panthers to three consecutive bowl appearances, Chryst oversaw the most explosive offenses in Wisconsin history. During his last two seasons as UW’s offensive coordinator (2010 and 2011), the Badgers set multiple school and Big Ten records.
With current Green Bay Packers quarterback Scott Tolzien at the helm in 2010, UW averaged more than 40.0 points a game for the first time in school history, ranking fifth in the country with 41.5 points per contest. On the way to their first Big Ten title since 1999, the Badgers scored at least 70 points three times. As a team, Wisconsin set a Big Ten record with a .732 completion percentage while also tying the conference record for rushing touchdowns (48).
Individually, Tolzien won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and left tackle Gabe Carimi won the Outland Trophy. Running back John Clay was a Doak Walker Award finalist while tight end Lance Kendricks and left guard John Moffitt joined Carimi as first-team All-Americans.
The following season, UW did the unthinkable and improved upon that dynamic season. In the one and only year they were united, Chryst and quarterback Russell Wilson combined on a season for the ages. Wilson set the FBS record for pass efficiency (191.8) while setting school records for passing yards (3,175) and passing touchdowns (33, second-most in Big Ten history).Not to be outdone, junior running back Montee Ball etched his own name in the NCAA record book, tying Barry Sanders’ single-season record with 39 touchdowns. Ball ran for 1,923 yards and was a Heisman Trophy finalist. For the second season in a row, the Badgers had three first-team All-Americans with center Peter Konz and guard Kevin Zeitler joining Ball.
The Badgers averaged 44.1 points per game, sixth-best in the country. Not only was that a school record, but it’s the third-best mark in the Big Ten since 1916. In fact, UW led the conference in scoring in each of Chryst’s past three seasons, with the final two both ranking among the top five in the league since 1916.
Chryst’s last stint in Madison lasted seven years, serving as UW’s co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach in 2005 and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2006-11. During those seven seasons, Wisconsin compiled a 70-22 (.761) record, winning at least 10 games five times.
In his first season coordinating UW’s offense (2005), the Badgers set a then-school record by averaging 34.3 points per game. Senior quarterback John Stocco’s 2,920 passing yards were a school record and running back Brian Calhoun became the second player in FBS history with at least 1,500 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in a season.
Chryst-led offenses are responsible for six of the top 10 total offense seasons, three of the top four scoring offenses, three of the top five third-down conversion percentages, three of the top four completion percentage seasons and five of the top seven individual pass efficiency seasons in school history. In total, the Badgers averaged 34.1 points and 416.3 yards of total offense in Chryst’s seven years at the helm. Both of those were tops in the Big Ten over that span.
Each of UW’s top four quarterbacks in terms of single-season passing yards were tutored by Chryst. In his seven seasons as offensive coordinator, Wisconsin ranked fifth in the country and best in the Big Ten in pass efficiency (148.1). UW’s 8.5 yards per pass attempt during those seven seasons was second-best in the country. On the ground, the Badgers averaged 204.2 yards per game, tops in the Big Ten and fourth among Power Five conference teams.
That offensive acumen followed him to Pitt. In his debut season as head coach, the Panthers had a 3,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher in the same year for the first time in school history. Quarterback Tino Sunseri’s 3,288 passing yards were the second-most ever at Pitt.
“He brings tremendous experience, both as a head coach and offensive coordinator, and knowledge of our program to the job," Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said. "He is one of the best offensive minds I have ever come across and I think his consistent results show that."
Last season, in his first and only year as a starter at Pitt, quarterback Tom Savage threw for 2,958 yards and 21 touchdowns. Playing for the third school in his career, and seeing his first action since 2010, Savage was drafted in the fourth round by the Houston Texans.
This year, Pitt boasted one of the top rushing offenses in the country, ranking 15th in the nation by averaging 251.3 yards per game on the ground. The Panthers were led by sophomore running back James Connor, who leads the ACC and ranks fifth in the country with 1,675 rushing yards.
In his three seasons, Pitt improved from 83rd in the country in scoring offense (24.3 ppg.) the year before he arrived to 47th (31.7 ppg.) this season. Stabilizing a program that had five different acting head coaches in a span of 12 months, Chryst led the Panthers to a 19-19 overall record and three consecutive bowl appearances.
Chryst was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Oregon State in 2003-04. He helped the Beavers rank No. 6 nationally in passing yards per game (328.1). The 2003 Beavers became the first team in NCAA history with a 4,000-yard passer, 1,500-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers.
Chryst came to Wisconsin in 2002 after serving as an assistant coach with the San Diego Chargers.
Previously, Chryst was an assistant coach for Oregon State (1997-98), the Saskatchewan Roughriders (1996), Illinois State (1995), the Ottawa Rough Riders (1994), UW-Platteville (1993) and the World League’s San Antonio Riders (1991-92). He also was a graduate assistant at West Virginia (1989–90).
Chryst was a three-time football letterwinner at Wisconsin, where he earned a degree in political science in 1988. He added a master’s degree in educational administration from West Virginia in 1990. Paul’s brother, Rick, was commissioner of the Mid-American Conference for 10 years. Another brother, Geep, is an assistant with the San Francisco 49ers. Paul’s late father, George, was a longtime head coach at UW-Platteville and a former Badgers player and assistant coach.
Chryst and his wife, Robin, have three children: Katy, JoJo and Danny.
Said UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank: "There is no one better prepared to lead the Wisconsin Badgers into the future than Paul Chryst."