Jim Naveau: Slipping Wisconsin moves fast

When Wisconsin fired football coach Paul Chryst on Sunday night it was shocking. Or was it?

Chryst’s teams won 72 percent of the games they’d played since he became Wisconsin’s coach in 2015. Three of his first four teams won 10 games or more and three of his teams played in the Big Ten championship game.

So his firing after back to back bad losses to Ohio State and Illinois was shocking. But maybe it shouldn’t have been.

A quick hook after a few losses is becoming more and more common in college football.

Wisconsin became a near-great football program when Barry Alvarez was its coach from 1990 to 2005. He had three Top 10 teams and three Rose Bowl teams and his hand-picked successor Bret Bielema had three Top 10 teams and three teams that went to the Rose Bowl.

Bielema shocked Wisconsin when he left to become Arkansas’ coach in 2012, a decision the Badgers’ fans found incomprehensible. Then Gary Anderson, the coach who followed him, left after only two seasons to go to Oregon State.

That was the beginning of what now looks like a gradual erosion of Wisconsin’s position as a Top 10 contender.

Ohio State has beaten Wisconsin nine times in a row. Penn State has won five in a row and seven of its last eight against the Badgers. Wisconsin’s last Big Ten championship was in 2012 and it has never played in the College Football Playoff.

The Wisconsin team Ohio State beat 52-21 two weeks ago did not have players like Joe Thomas, J.J. Watt, Ron Dayne, Jonathan Taylor, Melvin Gordon, Jamar Fletcher and Lee Evans.

That loss stirred things up and created talk that Chryst might be fired at the end of the season if Wisconsin continued to play poorly.

But the final straw, more like the final insult, was being dominated 34-10 by Illinois, with Bielema as its coach, last Saturday.

Jim Naveau has covered local and high school sports for The Lima News since 1978 and Ohio State football since 1992. His OSU coverage appears in more than 30 newspapers. Naveau, a Miami University graduate, also worked at the Greenville Advocate and the Piqua Daily Call. He has seen every boys state basketball tournament since 1977. Reach him at [email protected] or 567-242-0414.