Today was a day when a lot of Pitt fans were breaking down the basketball team's horrific basketball performance on Tuesday against Indiana and talking about James Conner winning ACC Player of the Year Awards.
Then, there was this:
The names Jim Tressel and Paul Chryst seem to be the most serious around #Nebraska. At least from those I am hearing from...— Dari Nowkhah (@ESPNDari) December 3, 2014
There were earlier mentions of Paul Chryst to Nebraska stuff but that seemed to come from fans with too much time on their hands on Twitter throwing things against the wall to see what would stick. But Nowkhah's comments were the first from any reputable source that I'd seen.
To be fair, I'm not sure that Nowkhah is considered a major breaker of news. But he does work on camera/radio at ESPN and that, of course, is going to give him more credibility than some random dude tweeting. Because of that, the Chryst-Nebraska stuff grew even more legs and it became a 'thing' by Wednesday night.
That aside, let's take a look at some things that could factor into Chryst being pursued (or not).
Just the Facts, Ma'am
- Nebraska is fresh off firing a guy who averaged more than nine wins a year in Bo Pelini. Pelini's worst seasons? Three 9-4 stints in 2008, 2011, and 2013. In four of his seven seasons, he finished first or in a tie for first in the Division.
- Paul Chryst has finished 6-6 three consecutive seasons at Pitt
Now, how much sense does their interest in Chryst add up to you based purely on on-field achievement? It could also be successfully argued that Chryst has had less success against easier competition, dating back to the final Big East season and the two ACC years.
If nothing else, we know that if Nebraska wants Chryst, it's not because he's exactly a hot commodity with an impressive track record as a head coach.
Chryst's potential is still largely unknown. Here's the thing, though - his credibility took a hit this year when he failed to get above 6-6 with a weak schedule and, even worse, he's now had three consecutive seasons without a shred of improvement in terms of wins and losses. The Pitt program is like being in a lifeboat stuck in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean without a paddle right now. And as I've stated before, you can even make the argument that the team has regressed since this year's schedule was so light and the result was the same at 6-6.
While I've maintained that Chryst has done an admirable job recruiting for Pitt because of the mess he walked into, the fact is that he's never been seen as a dynamic recruiter and that the program has ranked near the bottom of P5 schools during his tenure.
The good news for Chryst is that recruiting isn't the be all end all for his system, which relies, really, on having a strong offensive line and running backs able to carry big workloads. You can have success without five-star kids and that was proven by his time as offensive coordinator at Wisconsin. But overall, Chryst isn't someone that's going to be hired with his recruiting acumen in mind.
Much is being made of athletic director Shawn Eichorst having worked at Wisconsin with Chryst and that's understandable. To a degree. But even if Eichorst likes Chryst, I'm not sure that equates to hiring him for a high-profile job since he's not been able to produce a single regular season over .500. This isn't taking a chance on a flyer at a mid major school because you really believe in someone, it's freaking Nebraska.
In other words, the relationship is there, but that alone won't be enough to bring Chryst aboard. Many fans wanted Pelini gone - and that was for regularly winning 9-10 games a year. How exactly do you think a hiring of Chryst would go over? Eichorst surely will be thinking about that.
Chalk one up for Chryst to Nebraska making a little bit of sense. Chryst is a midwest and Big Ten guy - he knows the schools, knows the rivalries, knows the high school coaches. He was born in Wisconsin and went to college there. Even his offensive system of big offensive line and strong running game screams Big Ten. Chryst and his system would fit right in.
The Myth that Chryst Wouldn't Leave
Finally, some people don't believe that Chryst would make the jump to Nebraska primarily because he 'said no' to Wisconsin. I've never believed that to be true, though.
I fully think Chryst was interested in the Badgers' job (a lot, actually) simply because he refused to immediately squash those rumors when they were swirling. As Jim Rome says, if people are saying things about you that aren't true, you're going to be shouting it from the rooftops not refusing to make a statement. Instead of immediately saying he wasn't interested, Chryst and Barry Alvarez waited several days to state that he wasn't a candidate.
Chryst was said to be missing Wisconsin at the time and, this is nothing but speculation here, I fully believe that he and Alvarez ultimately came to the conclusion that leaving then would be too damaging. Just really poor timing and under different circumstances, I could very easily have seen Chryst leave.
I don't think Nebraska will hire Chryst. If he had even a smidgen of success at Pitt, it suddenly would become a lot more believable. But I can't see the school firing a guy who had seven straight years going over .500 in the regular season for one that hasn't had even one yet. Surely, I could be wrong and underestimate Eichorst's willingness to go out on a limb here. But things just don't add up for the most part.
Make no mistake about it - I can fully envision Chryst leaving for the right situation. To me, though, this isn't it and I don't expect Nebraska to roll the dice quite so much with their next hire.
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