Wisconsin was a surprise addition to the early season flurry of coaching dismissals when Paul Chryst was let go on Sunday, but the Badgers may have a ready-made fill in to take the reins.
Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard was named the interim coach and oddsmakers have installed him as the favorite to take over the job full time.
The former Wisconsin walk-on who went on to be named to three All-American teams has been one of the hottest names in the assistant coaching ranks. With the Badgers off to a 2-3 start overall and 0-2 in the Big Ten, athletic director Chris McIntosh decided to move on now -- perhaps in an effort to keep Leonhard in Madison long term.
Leonhard was installed as the 2-1 favorite by SportsBetting.ag to become the next Badgers coach. After going undrafted in 2005, Leonhard went on to forge a 10-year career in the NFL. He returned to Madison as the defensive backs coach in 2016 and was elevated to defensive coordinator the next year.
Wisconsin Next Head Coach Odds
Jim Leonhard, 2-1
Bill O'Brien, 3-1
Lance Leipold, 5-1
Dave Aranda, 6-1
Sean Lewis, 8-1
Dave Doeren, 10-1
Matt Rhule, 12-1
Tom Herman, 14-1
Matt Campbell, 16-1
Chris Peterson, 18-1
Dan Mullen, 20-1
Former Penn State coach and current Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien has the second shortest odds at 3-1, followed by Kansas head coach Lance Leipold at 5-1.
There are already five Power 5 openings, so the jockeying has begun for the top potential candidates.
Nebraska began the spree by dismissing Scott Frost last month. Arizona State's Herm Edwards was next, followed by Georgia Tech's Geoff Collins. Chryst and Colorado's Karl Dorrell joined the list on Sunday.
Baylor's Dave Aranda and Kent State's Sean Lewis are among the other hot coaching candidates in the rumor mill.
Chryst, 56, was in his eighth season at Wisconsin. He led the Badgers to a 67-26 record, including a 43-18 mark in Big Ten play. Wisconsin also finished as champion or co-champion in the conference three times (2016, 2017, 2019) under Chryst.
He helped the Badgers win 10 or more games on four occasions, but was just 15-10 since the start of the 2020 season.
"After a heartfelt and authentic conversation with Coach Chryst about what is in the long-term best interest of our football program, I have concluded that now is the time for a change in leadership," McIntosh said in a statement. "Paul is a man of integrity who loves his players. I have great respect and admiration for Paul and the legacy of him and his family at the University of Wisconsin."
--Field Level Media