Given that Wisconsin Badgers head coach Bret Bielema is expected to be formally announced as the next head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks in the near future according to multiple reports, it’s an interesting exercise to consider who could be potential targets for the athletic administration in Madison as his replacement.
It’s reasonable to assume some of the same big names will be discussed as potential candidates in this round that we’ve seen recently discussed for the Arkansas, Tennessee Volunteers and Auburn Tigers openings, including ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, Oklahoma State Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy, Arkansas State head coach Gus Malzahn, Alabama Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Larry Fedora.
It’s open to debate on whether the Wisconsin job is a first-tier job along the lines of Auburn or Tennessee. What isn’t debatable is the ability Bielema had while there to recruit the Midwest effectively and obtain enough of the prime talent in the region from one year to the next to stay consistently competitive–even if that talent was from outside of the state of Wisconsin.
Wisconsin first and foremost will be looking for a big splash hire that can help them maintain the momentum they have achieved with the recent Big 10 Championship win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the upcoming Rose Bowl bid to take on the Pac-12 Champion Stanford Cardinal.
This coach, whoever it is, must have existing ties in the Midwest that will allow recruiting momentum to continue without a hitch. This makes it hard to imagine that the next coach will come from the SEC, whether it would be an assistant coach like Smart or established head coaches like Malzahn or Fedora.
The flip side of this argument is that the Badgers have recruited Palm Beach and certain areas of Florida well over time, so any existing connections there could also be valuable moving forward.
The popular Internet buzz along these lines– at least today– lies with current Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Paul Chryst, who spent 2006-2011 with the Badgers as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Chryst is in the clubhouse as the favorite given these ties, but will they be enough for a Wisconsin administration that has a huge decision on their hands?
It’s only the most recent case in the ever-expanding coaching carousel, but one that will be entertaining nonetheless.
Kris is the host of Rant Sports Radio on the Blog Talk Radio Network Wednesday evenings at 8 Central Time.