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January 5, 2011

Tom's Take: Losing Chryst would hurt

MADISON - Frankly, Paul Chryst deserves to look around.

He deserves to bask in the limelight of the shadow he's cast over the Wisconsin football program because that's what happens when you direct an offense that's fresh off a 41.5 points-per-game tally throughout a 13 game season.

Heck, if Chryst were in the movie business he'd have guys like Steven Spielberg blushing based on the amount of efficiency and productivity his offenses have engineered.

Good coaches do nothing but move up the coaching ladder. It's not any different than any other profession.

So when a prominent coordinator watches his offense blast the school's previous scoring record and scores well over 500 points in a given season -something only a handful of other schools can boast - he can talk to whoever he wants.

Knowing that, it's not surprising some of the quote, unquote, big boys of the business - the Texas's of the world - have come knocking on his door. As a proud football program (basically a franchise) that has sipped from the brim of National Championship lore, and has come painstakingly close to yet another dip into the same Kool-Aid, it would be foolish not to go after the best of the best in the coaching football circles when circling the wagons.

You can't even say the hypothetical (at this point) move, in Chryst's case, would be lateral even though it's for the same offensive coordinator position he already owns. Since when is it a move of equal stature when you're going from one program that has been to one BCS bowl in the past decade to one that is a BCS mainstay, including a national champion?

It's like throwing an ice cream cone on the sidewalk in the middle of a hot summer day expecting it not to melt. It just doesn't happen.

That's not even getting into the amount of green that's being tossed around. If Chryst is going to be offered upwards of a million bucks to paste opponents in the Big 12, with the amount of talent Texas has and in a league where defense is optional, he'd be foolish not to entertain the offer. Not to mention the fact that he'd go to a school with an aging head coach that just lost its 'Coach in waiting' to the head job at Florida.

The opportunities are endless if he were to go that route.

Look, the Big Ten has a historical stigma about it that intimates a love affair with defensive football. The Big 12, on the other hand, intimates a fetish with scoring the football and doing so at a high rate.

Chryst would fit right in.

So when a powerhouse like Texas, in a big time college town like Austin, is hell bent on upping it's production from a quizzical, if not shocking, 23 points-per-game output in 2010, why not go for the guy at a school that's dropped 83 and 70 points against teams from an automatic qualifying conference.

It makes sense.

Of the top 10 scoring programs in college football this past season, only half are from BCS conferences. Oregon (1), Oklahoma State (3), Auburn (4), Wisconsin (7) and Stanford (9) are the only 'power six' squads that can boast scoring averages over 40 points per game. All but one of those programs made a BCS game this season and two will play for the national title next week.

Clearly, assistant coaches from those programs are going to be hot commodities.

Needless to say, the fact UW athletic director Barry Alvarez and head coach Bret Bielema are trying to pull a rabbit out of their collective hat and up Chryst's pay to a reasonable balance, says they understand what type of a hit it would be to the UW program should they lose the most prolific offensive coordinator in school history.

And like the hunch they already have, it will hurt the Badger program more than people may realize.

If you're still upset by Chryst's call to abandon the run during that fateful two-point try in the Rose Bowl, don't convince yourself that losing him wouldn't hurt the program. You can't take such a small sample size that is so fresh in your mind and place so much emphasis on it over the summation of the parts that led the Badgers to the grassy greens of Pasadena's most fabled stadium in the first place.

Losing Paul Chryst wouldn't derail where Bielema has this program going. But it would definitely slow it down.

Not only has Chryst's offense consistently improved its scoring capabilities during his tenure, he's also displayed an ability to morph marginal quarterback talents into some of the best in school history.

Guys like John Stocco, Tyler Donovan and Scott Tolzien may not have been the primary target in their respective recruiting class or given much of an opportunity throughout the majority of their career, but Chryst never gave up on them.

Instead, he continued to develop them so that when they did receive that call to lead a high-powered offense they would be both capable and successful.

Tolzien was the most accurate passer in UW history and went 21-5 as a starter over the past two years and helped the team win its first Big Ten title in over a decade.

Stocco, a three-year starter, led the Badgers to its best-ever finish at 12-1 during both Bielema and Chryst's first season roaming the Badger sideline. And finally, Donovan proved to be one of the more dynamic pass-run threats UW has seen.

Knowing the impact he's had over the past half decade in Madison, it's tough to imagine Chryst implementing his offense anywhere else simply because his offense is Wisconsin. It's what UW has become and it's a staple that teams throughout the Big Ten have to cringe about when preparing for the Badgers.

Should the various reports regarding Chryst entertaining offers from both Texas and the Dallas Cowboys be true, there's nothing to say other than that he deserves it. Should he accept a new challenge in a place far away from the home he's had for the past five years, more power to him.

It's just going to sting a little bit if you're a Badger fan because you can't immediately replace the amount of success he's had during his time here. If he does indeed come back, enjoy the continued success and creativity that will certainly come with it.

But before you think his departure wouldn't mean much, think twice.

Isn't there a phrase that says you don't know what you have until it's gone?




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