Nebraska Football: Paul Chryst firing adds wrinkles to Huskers coaching search

Wisconsin Badgers head coach Paul Chryst during the second quarter(Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)
Wisconsin Badgers head coach Paul Chryst during the second quarter(Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports) /

Nebraska football is no longer the only Big Ten team looking for a new head coach. On Sunday night, the Wisconsin Badgers announced they had fired Paul Chryst and suddenly the Huskers’ head coaching search took a rather dramatic twist. There are now a few more wrinkles when it comes to their search and for a variety of different reasons.

Yes, there have been other programs that have fired their head coach since Scott Frost was canned after Nebraska football’s Week 2 contest. But Wisconsin might pose the biggest challenge and offers the biggest wrinkles to whatever plans Athletic Director Trev Alberts has in store.

Right at the top of the list of reasons why Husker fans should be a bit concerned about this particular firing is that defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard is taking over in his stead. That’s bad news for a certain group of Nebraska football fans who have been holding Leonhard up as a candidate.

It’s felt like Leonhard was always going to be a long shot to get the Huskers’ gig, but he’s definitely been on the short list of more than one coaching search in the last few years. If Alberts was hoping to interview him for the job, he just got a bit of a roadblock put in his way.

The other wrinkle is a coach that doesn’t currently work for Wisconsin but has already been rumored to be a top candidate if and when Chryst was fired. Lance Leipold is working some serious magic at Kansas. He has the Jayhawks off to a 5-0 start for the first time in over a decade. They’re in the Top 25 for the first time since 2009.

Until now, it felt as though if the Nebraska football program wanted Leipold, there was very little that could be done to stop them. Arizona State and Georgia Tech simply didn’t seem to be on the same level (especially money wise) as the Huskers’ job. Wisconsin is a whole other story.

Not only does Wisconsin have access to the same media pay day that the Cornhuskers do as part of the Big Ten’s new deal, they are in a better spot as a program.

The Badgers were considered legit contenders not only for the Big Ten West, but the Big Ten title. Yeah, they’d have to get past Ohio State, but that’s been a slugfest in recent years. Perhaps they could have emerged victorious from that, prognosticators thought.

That’s why Chryst is out. Wisconsin has massively underachieved already this year. They’re 0-2 in the Big Ten and alone in last (even behind Nebraska) in the West. And now, it’s not hard to think they might be the front runners for Leipold.

This all assumes that either school wants Leipold of course. It’s possible that Wisconsin is just going to see how Leonhard does and then promote him full-time if he gets this thing turned around. It’s also possible the Nebraska football team is zeroing in on someone else than either coach. But it’s hard to argue that Chryst’s firing doesn’t add some interesting wrinkles for the rest of the season.