Paul Chryst fired: Who will replace Wisconsin's football coach?

Jim Leonhard is now Wisconsin's interim head coach. Is he a lock to get the full-time gig? Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire

Before Sunday night, the coaching carousel had been active but did not feature a true shocker. Wisconsin changed that by firing coach Paul Chryst.

Chryst was on no one's hot-seat list entering the season. Wisconsin's program seemed to be trending downward -- the team had not reached the Big Ten title game since 2019, its longest drought since the event launched in 2011 -- but the team still won nine games last year and returned talent on both sides of the ball. Chryst never had a losing season at his alma mater. He's as Wisconsin as it gets. Although the team had started slowly (2-3) for the second straight year, Chryst had turned things around in 2021 and seemed capable of doing so again.

The decision to fire Chryst despite a 67-26 record, three Big Ten West Division titles and six bowl victories, including the Cotton and Orange, elicited shocked reactions from throughout the college football world.

"What the hell happened? How can you do that?" a Power 5 coach texted.

Athletic director Chris McIntosh, a former Wisconsin player and UW lifer like Chryst, understood the magnitude of his decision and didn't make it lightly. On Wisconsin? This was as un-Wisconsin as it gets. A program built on coaching continuity isn't expected to cut ties with a coach who won 72% of his games. Even after a rough loss Saturday to Illinois and Wisconsin's former coach, Bret Bielema.

McIntosh's decision could go down as masterful, or Wisconsin might have just had its Frank Solich moment.

But McIntosh saw a regressing offense, the inability to keep pace with the Big Ten's best programs and a lag in recruiting. He also saw defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, a Wisconsin legend who had been pegged as Chryst's likely successor whenever that day came. Leonhard was the clear choice to be interim coach until the end of the season. Wisconsin is setting him up to land the permanent job if he can deliver success in the final seven games.

Still, McIntosh said Sunday night he owed it to Wisconsin to conduct a full search. Beyond Leonhard, Wisconsin has an interesting and robust candidate pool and plenty to offer. Starting with Leonhard, here's a look at the potential candidates at Wisconsin -- which will have some overlap with Nebraska's list -- from most likely to some long shots.