Share This Page

Wisconsin coach emerging as Pitt's choice

The search for Pitt's next football coach took a turn Wednesday when Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst emerged as the leading candidate.

Chryst, a Wisconsin native and University of Wisconsin graduate, is viewed as a surer long-term fit than other candidates because of his Midwest ties and credentials directing a Badgers offense that set team scoring records each of the past two seasons, sources told the Tribune-Review.

Many prominent Pitt boosters support hiring Chryst.

Chryst, who interviewed with Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson on Saturday, could not be reached for comment.

Pederson, who also has spoken with Florida International's Mario Cristobal and Ohio State interim coach Luke Fickell, is not commenting while conducting a search for former Pitt coach Todd Graham's replacement. Graham resigned Dec. 13 to take the same position at Arizona State.

The Panthers are looking for their fourth head coach in 13 months. Pitt would like to wrap its search before the weekend, sources said.

Chryst began his coaching career in 1989 as a graduate assistant at West Virginia under College Football Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen.

"I don't know if he has the job or not," Nehlen said Wednesday night, "but if he has, Pitt has done something really, really right."

Nehlen said he has kept an eye on Chryst's career and is impressed by his play-calling, especially in the running game. Wisconsin finished the regular season 10th nationally — first in the Big Ten — in rushing with 237.4 yards per game.

"He never panics, sticks to what he can do and is well-schemed," Nehlen said. "At a place like Pitt, which has traditionally been able to recruit offensive linemen, he will do well."

Chryst's interview with Pitt went well, better than one he had last year when the Panthers were looking for Dave Wannstedt's replacement, sources said.

Cristobal, whose Florida International squad lost to Marshall, 20-10, in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl on Tuesday, met yesterday with FIU officials.

Cristobal, who in August signed a contract extension through 2016, was identified as an early favorite for the Pitt job, but over the past two days Pitt officials have not felt comfortable with his ties to the state of Florida and worried that he would leave the university after only a few years, sources said. The Miami Herald reported last night that Cristobal and FIU officials are negotiating an additional extension.

Chryst was a three-time, letter-winning quarterback for Wisconsin from 1986-88. He spent the next two seasons at West Virginia, then he had positions with 10 universities or pro teams. He joined Oregon State as offensive coordinator in 2003 and took the same job at Wisconsin in '05.

At Oregon State, he helped the Beavers become the first team in Division I history with a 4,000-yard passer, 1,500-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers.

The No. 10 Badgers (11-2) play No. 5 Oregon in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2. They set a school record for the second consecutive season by averaging 44.6 points, fourth nationally.

Chryst has been a head coaching candidate at various schools during the past few years. He turned down the Purdue job in 2008, a year after declining three offers from Jerry Jones to become the Dallas Cowboys' quarterbacks coach. After a 2010 season during which Wisconsin averaged a school-record 41.5 points per game, he interviewed for openings at Pitt and Minnesota.

Pitt's football program has been in flux since last December, when Wannstedt was forced to resign. Pitt hired Mike Haywood from Miami (Ohio), then fired him two weeks later after he was charged with domestic battery. Pitt then turned to Graham, who at the time was Tulsa's head coach.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.