In 1979, George Chryst left the University of Wisconsin to become UW–Platteville’s football coach.
Five years later, George’s son, Paul, left Platteville to play football for UW–Madison.
Thirty years after that, Paul Chryst, second-generation UW player and graduate, was introduced as Wisconsin’s new head football coach Wednesday.
UW athletic director and former football coach Barry Alvarez said he was “contacted by a number of well known head coaches as well as high ranking assistant football coaches about this job,” but said that Chryst was his number one choice all along.
Chryst said he “couldn’t be more grateful and honored and certainly appreciative of such an opportunity” at his introductory news conference Wednesday night, which included UW backers and the UW Marching Band. “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without my mom and dad and family and what they’ve done.
“To be able to do this and come back home to Wisconsin, it truly is special.”
Chryst played football at three different positions — quarterback (where he was recruited), linebacker and tight end — for UW in the 1980s, then came back to coach in 2002. In Chryst’s four years as a player, UW went 18–27–1 under three coaches, two after the death of the coach who recruited Chryst, Dave McClain, in 1986.
“When I went to Wisconsin, it was different than what coach [Alvarez] and the players have accomplished, and I wanted to be part of that and to be able to learn and grow,” he said.
Chryst’s potential hiring was a hit among Wisconsin’s high school football coaches when Chryst was reported to be UW’s number one candidate after the sudden resignation of coach Gary Andersen to go to Oregon State two weeks ago. It seems to have been a hit among former Badgers as well.
“It’s a great hire,” said former Platteville football player Louis Nzegwu, who played for the Badgers when Chryst was their offensive coordinator. “Coach Chryst was one of the top five offensive coordinators back when I was playing for the Badgers.”
Nzegwu called Chryst “not only a great coordinator but also phenomenal at developing quarterbacks to excel/manage the offense. Of course he’s a head coach now, but he’ll definitely help manage the QBs a lot better than this past season, which will obviously help win more games.”
Nzegwu also said Chryst would help in an area that some high school coaches felt Chryst’s predecessor faltered in — recruiting of Wisconsin players.
“Wisconsin is coach Chryst’s mainland,” said Nzegwu. “He’s had several successful years at UW and a great recruiting background before departing.”
“The Badger football program is in incredible hands,” said former Richland Center player Bradie Ewing, who also played for Chryst, on Twitter. Ewing called him a “very selfless man and leader.”
UW men’s basketball coach Bo Ryan, hired to coach UW–Platteville by George Chryst when Chryst was UWP athletic director, also approved of the hire.
“I’m absolutely thrilled for Paul Chryst and his family,” said Ryan in a statement at UWBadgers.com. “I’ve known him since he was a little boy. He’s worked very hard and I’ve watched him turn into a great leader and a great football coach. He deserves this chance. The UW football program is in great hands.”
Chryst was an assistant coach at UW–Platteville in 1993. Chryst was an assistant coach at Wisconsin in 2002 and from 2005 to 2011, when he was the offensive coordinator under Alvarez and coach Bret Bielema. Between 2009 and 2011, Wisconsin had the best record in the Big Ten, and Chryst was twice a finalist for the Broyles Award as college’s football’s best assistant coach. In 2011, the Badgers set team season records for scoring offense and offensive, rushing and passing yardage on the way to their second of three consecutive Big Ten championships and Rose Bowl berths.
Chryst coached two Heisman Trophy finalists in the same season, quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Montee Ball.
Before he coached at Wisconsin, Chryst was a graduate assistant at West Virginia in 1989 and 1990, an assistant coach with the late World League of American Football’s San Antonio Riders in 1991 and 1992, an assistant coach with the Canadian Football League’s Ottawa Rough Riders in 1994 and Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1996, an assistant at Illinois State in 1995, an assistant at Oregon State in 1997 and 1998, and tight ends coach of the National Football League’s San Diego Chargers from 1999 to 2001.
In between stints at Wisconsin, Chryst was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Oregon State in 2003 and 2004. The Beavers were the first team in NCAA history to have a 4,000-yard passer, a 1,500-yard rusher, and two 1,000-yard receivers.
When asked what George might have thought of Paul’s new job, Paul said, “I think he’d be proud.” Chryst then said that Ryan told him, “What do you think George would say if he walked down the halls and said, ‘Bo’s coaching the basketball team and you’re coaching the football team?’”