–submitted by Ben Hebebrand; photo by Mike Engelberger
Wisconsin Badgers Head Football Coach Paul Chryst was quick not to engage in any speculation as to how the UW football team will fare this season, proclaiming coaching wisdoms such as “focus on the now, and not the then,” or “you play the next upcoming game and you focus on that game.” Stressing his one-game-at-a-time philosophy, he stated that “we have 12 games and we hope to have the opportunity to play more games.” In a matter-of fact-voice devoid of any hubris, he added there always is the possibility “that we have an opportunity to win every game.”
Chryst, who lettered as a quarterback from 1986 to 1988 as a football player at UW and served as offensive coordinator at UW from 2005 through 2011, told the Rotary Club of Madison at its June 7 meeting how “blessed” he is to have the job in Madison. “I always thought I was lucky to be coaching anywhere, but to do so here in Madison adds so many layers,” he said.
Chryst reminded his audience that his one-game-at-a-time philosophy was reaffirmed to him when pundits talked of “gloom and doom” last year in light of UW’s difficult schedule. “I just don’t know what is going to happen this year,” he said, adding that he and his staff and team started training the Tuesday after Memorial Day, “doing the little things to get ready. We are putting in a lot of time in the weight room.”
As concerns any specific lineup for next year, Chryst stressed that “we have a lot of players coming back,” hinting at the possibility that not many freshmen will see significant action. He singled out the long-snapper position as one that will be filled by a freshman. In addressing the team’s quarterback position, Chryst did not mince words in proclaiming Alex Hornibrook, who started last year 9 games as UW quarterback, as the preferred choice. “He has a chance to be really good,” he said, adding that developing one of two freshmen as back-up quarterback would be a priority.
In answering questions from Rotarians and visitors, Chryst addressed issues ranging from revenues generated by the football program to academic standards for athletes.
As regards revenues, Chryst was clear that the Big Ten network does dictate some decisions, including the decision to play the season opener on a Friday, a day traditionally reserved for high school football. “They don’t ask me about the schedule,” Chryst replied, further explaining that the Big Ten Network television deal most likely is the cause for scheduling peculiarities. Chryst, however, was very firm in letting the audience know that the “TV money goes to athletic departments at universities but not at UW,” inferring that the university system shares in the revenues being generated.
In addressing academic standards, Chryst claimed that “Wisconsin has a smaller recruitment pool because of academic standards,” He stressed the programs’ commitment to academics, singling out academic advisors, learning specialists and tutors working diligently with student-athletes. An outcome of this dedication is the program’s graduation rate. “We have been in the Top 5 in graduation rates in the last 5 years.”
Chryst closed his presentation in speaking about motivation – how he as coach might motivate student-athletes. As a coach, “I am motivated by my players,” and as regards to motivating players, Chryst adopted a no-nonsense attitude: “I am not sure about the rah-rah speeches. The real key is to ask a kid why ‘are you doing what you are doing…’”