On October 2, Wisconsin athletic director Chris McIntosh decided to relieve head football coach Paul Chryst of his duties. The Badgers were 2-3, and there were concerns about the program’s direction. The decision was mildly surprising, but there was no question Wisconsin had slipped a little in the past couple of seasons. Of course, once you fire a coach, the next step is hiring a suitable replacement.
Who are the candidates to fill the vacant head coaching position for one of the Big Ten West’s better programs?
Wisconsin Coaching Candidates
-Jim Leonhard – Interim Head Coach
Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator and a former standout player for the Badgers, Leonhard, was named the interim coach and is the odds-on favorite to be named the next permanent head coach. Leonhard began his coaching career as the defensive backs coach for Wisconsin in 2016. He took over as defensive coordinator in 2017 after Justin Wilcox left for California and has led the defense since then. That unit has been terrific under Leonhard, and he was considered a hot name in coaching circles. This was widely considered to be a done deal. However, the Badgers have gone 3-2 in his time as the interim coach, and the Wisconsin administration has been silent about a timetable for the decision. A few committed recruits have de-committed due to the uncertainty, and the door is somewhat open for other candidates to be the choice.
-Lance Leipold – Kansas University
Despite the Kansas Jayhawks’ recent poor run, Lance Leipold will be on the “hot board” for nearly any coaching vacancy in the country. He has more ties to Wisconsin than most. Leipold played at Wisconsin-Whitewater in the 1980s and was an assistant under Barry Alvarez in the early 1990s. He was a legendary figure at Wisconsin-Whitewater, winning six national titles as head coach before going to Buffalo and turning around the Bulls. He’s had more success than everyone besides Mark Mangino at Kansas, and the Wisconsin ties make him an intriguing name to consider.
-Dave Aranda – Baylor University
A former defensive coordinator for the Badgers from 2013 to 2015, Aranda is the current head coach of the Baylor Bears. Baylor does not have “Big Ten TV money,” but they have many wealthy donors that would make it difficult to pry Aranda away from Waco. Aranda’s crew has struggled this season, and it seems unlikely Wisconsin would even make a run at him, but his past connection to Madison makes him a name to include.
-Dave Doeren – North Carolina State University
Another “Dave” and another head coach at a Power Five school with Wisconsin connections. The North Carolina State head coach is often knocked for not being able to break through, but he’s been incredibly consistent as the head coach in Raleigh. Doeren was at Wisconsin from 2006 to 2010, and it’s possible he feels he has maxed out what can be done with the Wolfpack. If Wisconsin called and offered a jump to the Big Ten, would he listen?
Jim Leonhard seems like the most likely choice for Wisconsin, and most experts believe they would not have fired Chryst during the season unless they intended to give the position to the defensive coordinator. However, the longer the school goes without making a decision, the more it seems they may consider other candidates. Leipold, Doeren, and Aranda are current head coaches that could make sense if the Badgers choose someone other than Leonhard.