Paul Chryst’s tenure as coach of the University of Wisconsin football team has ended.
UW athletic director Chris McIntosh fired Chryst a day after the Badgers’ second straight blowout loss, with Saturday’s 34-10 loss at home to Illinois. The news was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg.
Defense coordinator Jim Leonhard will be the Badgers’ interim coach.
“After a heartfelt and genuine conversation with Coach Chryst about what is in the long-term best interests of our football program, I have concluded that now is the time for a leadership change,” McIntosh said in a press release. “Paul is a man of integrity who loves his players. I have great respect and admiration for Paul and his and his family’s legacy at the University of Wisconsin.
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“I also have faith in Jim Leonhard who will lead the program for the remainder of the season. There is still a long season to go and I know Jim will do a great job while the program is under his leadership.”
According to a source, UW and Chryst agreed on a severance payment that was less than what Chryst was owed under a penalty clause in his contract that may have entitled him to at least $19 million.
The loss to the Illini dropped UW to 2-3 this season and Chryst to 15-10 since the start of the 2020 season. Chryst, a former UW soccer player from Madison, has had a 67-26 overall record and a 43-18 mark in Big Ten play since joining UW in 2015.
Chryst is the first UW football coach to be fired since Don Morton in 1989. Barry Alvarez (1990–2005), Bret Bielema (2006–12) and Gary Andersen (2014–15) left the job of their own volition.
“I appreciate Chris McIntosh putting his trust in me to lead our team,” Leonhard said in a press release. “My focus right now is on our players and preparing them for our game in the North West on Saturday.
“I owe a lot to Coach Chryst. Everyone in our program does. He gave me my first coaching job and I am eternally grateful to him for that. As Badger, I thank him for his influence on our football program and our players over many years.”
This was Chryst’s third stint at UW, having served as the program’s tight ends coach in 2002 and as offensive coordinator under Alvarez and Bielema from 2005 to 2011.
Disagreement over the direction of the Badgers program hit a new high last month, with UW dropping three out of four games and yet to beat a Power Five conference team this fall.
Leonhard is a former UW walk-on and three-time All-American Safety. Since he took over as defensive coordinator in 2017, his defense has been among the best in the nation.
Photos: Paul Chryst while coaching football in Wisconsin