Wisconsin has one coaching vacancy Eighth-year coach Paul Crist was fired five games into the season, and it quickly became one of the most lucrative job openings in college football. Once a Big Ten doormat, Wisconsin has transformed into a Midwestern powerhouse in recent decades. Since Barry Alvarez’s first season in 1990, through Brett Belma, Gary Anderson, and now Christ, Wisconsin has won six Big Ten titles and played 27 bowl games, including seven Rose Bowls.
While Ohio State and Michigan have dominated the Big Ten throughout their history, Wisconsin has emerged as the conference’s West Division power and one of its flagship events. This is something that doesn’t come up often. Considering its history and money flowing into the athletic department, thanks to the Big Ten’s latest television deal, it’s a job that could seat Power Five coaches.
So who will be the Badgers’ next coach? Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhardt appears to be a clear favorite, and will get a seven-game effort as an interim, but he is not guaranteed anything. Here is a short list of names that may generate interest.
Jim Leonhard, Wisconsin Defensive Coordinator/Interim Coach: I really think it’s Leonhard’s job to lose. He has been seen as a coach-in-waiting with the Badgers for some time, although most expected his wait to be a bit longer. Nevertheless, Leonhard has received interest from other Power Five jobs – including some Big Ten gigs – in the past, and it was felt that he was more interested in waiting for Wisconsin job openings. Now he will get a chance.
Lance Leipold, Kansas Coach: Leipold did an amazing job producing a Buffalo program with very little history in competing for the Mac title, and he was already in his second season leading Kansas to the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2009. has given place. But before Leipold had it all, he led Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater to six national titles, leading 109-6 in eight seasons. Leopold is a Wisconsin native, and some have thought that one of the reasons Wisconsin made the move on Christ so quickly was that he wanted to make a run at Leopold before Nebraska—or before Kansas offered him a new deal. to close together. If it’s not Leonhard, I’d pick Leopold as the most likely candidate.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State Coach: Some are wondering whether Campbell has waited too long to make the leap from Iowa State. Of course, this assumes he ever planned to jump. While the Cyclones are only 10-8 overall and 5-6 in the Big 12 since the start of 2021, it’s hard to ignore how well they have fared in one of the most challenging Power Five events in the country. If Campbell decides to stay in Wisconsin, you have to think that he’ll win a lot of games there, too.
Dave Aranda, Boiler Coach: Gary Anderson didn’t get much right during his short stint as coach of Wisconsin, but he did hire their own defensive coordinator. Aranda spent three seasons running the Badgers’ defense before moving on to the same position at LSU. After winning the national title with the Tigers, Aranda took the job of a boiler and won the Big 12 last season. He is a native of California, having coached all over the country. If Wisconsin called, he would have to listen.
Sean Lewis, Kent State Coach: It would be a departure from Wisconsin, but it’s about time Lewis started considering the Big Ten. Lewis Kent State teams have consistently committed up-tempo, high-scoring offenses. The Golden Flashes scored 22 points against Georgia two weeks earlier and, after playing one of the toughest non-conference events in the universe, opened the conference game with a 31–24 win over Ohio. Like Leonhard, Lewis is a Wisconsin alum masquerading as a former tight end for the Badgers.
Dave Doren, NC State CoachDoreen: Doreen was the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin from 2006 to 2010 before becoming head coach at Northern Illinois. After winning two conference titles in two years there, he went to NC State, where he led the Wolfpack to one of the ACC’s toughest shows and churned out NFL draft picks. Still, in his 10th season at NC State and a loss to Clemson, it’s possible that Doeran is wondering if he has reached his ceiling in Raleigh. Maybe it’s time to make a fresh start somewhere else?
Matt Roulette, Carolina Panthers CoachRoulette: Roulette’s NFL stint hasn’t gone well, and Carolina Panthers fans will pay for their plane tickets to Madison, but Wisconsin fans shouldn’t worry about that. A lot of good college coaches have flopped in the NFL, returned, and won too many games. That Nick Saban guy comes to mind. Anyway, Roulette has won more games than anyone at Temple—he went 20-7 during the 2015 and 2016 seasons—and then quickly turned around a boiler program out of the depths of Art Brills Fallout. I have no doubt that he will win at Madison as well.
Chris Peterson, Fox Analyst: An out-of-the-box idea, Peterson is one of the great college coaches of recent vintage. He went 92-12 in eight seasons at Boise State, taking the Broncos from a program no one had ever heard of to America’s favorite Cinderella story. He then won two Pac-12 titles and reached the college football playoffs 55–26 in his six seasons at Washington. If he wants to get back into coaching, Wisconsin seems like a great place for him to do so.
Dan Mullen, ESPN Analyst: Mullen’s time in Florida didn’t go as expected, but he still has a good offensive mind. He proved with his time at Mississippi State that he’s also a pretty damn good head coach. When he came to head coaching at the SEC, Mullen is a Pennsylvania native who spent a lot of time in the Midwest and Northeast, so coaching in Wisconsin wouldn’t be like coaching in a foreign country. I wonder what his offense would be like in a cold-weather climate like Wisconsin. Plus, I enjoy her on television, so maybe I shouldn’t even include her?