Football coach Chryst emphasizes his commitment to Pitt
Coach Paul Chryst said Tuesday night he is committed to the Pitt football program after an opening developed at Wisconsin, his alma mater.
The Wisconsin opening surfaced Tuesday afternoon after coach Bret Bielema unexpectedly took the head coaching position at Arkansas, ESPN.com reported. Chryst was offensive coordinator at Wisconsin from 2005-11 before accepting the job at Pitt last year.
Chryst had not been offered the coaching job at Wisconsin as of Tuesday night.
“I understand the speculation surrounding my name given today's developments,” he said in a statement released by Pitt. “I am committed to the Pitt football program and the University of Pittsburgh. I am focusing all my time and energy on our team's bowl game preparation and recruiting a great group of young men to join our program and this outstanding university.
“We are working hard every day to re-establish this program, and I am excited about the future of Pitt football.”
Quarterback Tra'von Chapman, who is the Panthers' prize recruit from the Class of 2013, said he received a phone call from secondary coach Matt House, telling him that Chryst is not leaving.
“He said they are not going anywhere,” Chapman said. “They are not going to Wisconsin. He said, ‘Spread the word. The rumors are false.'
“That's great news,” Chapman said.
Chapman, a four-star recruit from Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent, Ohio, said he plans to take his official visit to Pitt this weekend.
Meanwhile, Bielema has agreed to become the new coach of the Razorbacks, according to a person familiar with the situation first reported by Yahoo Sports.
Bielema is leaving the Big Ten for the SEC and a Razorbacks program that opened the year with hopes of challenging for a national championship, only to get mired in the Bobby Petrino scandal before stumbling to a 4-8 finish.
The move was the second stunning hire this year at Arkansas, which brought in John L. Smith as interim coach after firing Petrino for hiring his mistress to work in the athletic department.
Bielema seems likely to bring a far different approach than what the Razorbacks have become accustomed to in recent years. Arkansas continually ranked among the Southeastern Conference's best passing teams under Petrino, while Bielema is known for his dominant offensive lines and slew of running backs.
Wisconsin running back Montee Ball tied Barry Sanders' single-season record of 39 touchdowns last year, and this year became the all-time FBS leader in touchdowns. He has 82 touchdowns after running for three in Saturday's Big Ten title game against Nebraska — a 70-31 romp that secured the Badgers third straight trip to the Rose Bowl, where they will play Stanford on Jan. 1.
Bielema is in his seventh season as Barry Alvarez's hand-picked successor at Wisconsin. He's 68-24 with the Badgers, with four double-digit win seasons, and he coached Wisconsin to a 17-14 win over Arkansas in his first season at the Capital One Bowl.
Bielema, 42, was the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin for two years before being promoted to head coach in 2006.
The Illinois native takes over a program still reeling following the April scandal, one eager for stability and leadership.
“I'm excited about this decision,” Arkansas cornerback Tevin Mitchel tweeted.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7997. The Associated Press contributed to this story.