University of Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas is reportedly interested in Wisconsin Badgers' Offensive Coordinator Paul Chryst to replace recently fired Ron Zook as Head Football Coach for the Fighting Illini, according to a report by Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Thomas promised to begin the search for a new head coach immediately after firing Zook, and has apparently turned his search to candidates within the Big Ten by identifying Chryst. With a Learjet flight travelling from the University of Illinois' Willard Airport to Madison, WI early Monday evening, it is possible the two men have already met regarding the vacancy.
Chryst coached tight ends on the Badgers coaching staff in 2002, then moved on to a coaching job at Oregon State University in 2003 and 2004, before rejoining the Wisconsin staff in 2005. When Bret Bielema was elevated to head coach in 2006 after Barry Alvarez retired from the position, Chryst took over as offensive coordinator and has held that post ever since. Chryst also reportedly turned down an offer to become the OC at the University of Texas after last season, but perhaps a head coaching job would be enough to lure him away from the Badgers.
Zook was fired after the Fighting Illini became the first team in college football history to begin the season 6-0 and conclude it at 6-6, by ending their season with six consecutive losses.