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Wisconsin Badgers Athletic Director Chris McIntosh Has Stones



Wisconsin Badgers - Chris McIntosh

Madison, Wis. – It’s still hard to comprehend that Paul Chryst was the head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers three short months ago until a meeting with Chris McIntosh compelled him to make a change.  

Since then, controlled chaos has ensued in Madison, and the times…they are a changing.

Between winning college football’s coaching carousel with the surprise hiring of Luke Fickell, bringing in Phil Longo to overhaul the offense, or crushing the transfer portal, it’s already been one of the most memorable offseasons I can remember for the Wisconsin football program. 

Optimism is at an all-time high.

However, the real story here isn’t about the coaching staff, the recruits, or even the players. It’s about the man left standing once the dust settled – the one responsible for the madness, the architect if you will, Wisconsin Badgers Athletic Director Chris McIntosh.

How the Wisconsin Badgers Got Here

Not long ago (2016-19), the Wisconsin Badgers were on the cusp of the college football playoffs and nearing a breakthrough as a program. Then, after star running back Jonathan Taylor declared for the NFL Draft, and Jack Coan transferred, coach Chryst experienced what can only be described as a fall from grace.

No creativity, no grit, undisciplined, and without passion – that’s what Wisconsin football looked like from the outside looking in. All programs undergo seasons of a cyclical downturn – and UW is no different. But this time, it felt different, borderline unrecognizable. The talent gap between UW and Ohio State, + other top-tier teams, suddenly felt insurmountable. In short, the game began to pass coach Chryst by, leaving the program in limbo.

In a quickly evolving college athletics landscape, It felt like the Wisconsin Badgers were on the brink of a much steeper decline than most are willing to admit.

So, after an embarrassing loss to Illinois, McIntosh and coach Chryst sat down to discuss the program’s future. According to FootballScoop, the conversation became heated because of differing opinions, although we’ll never know for sure. Either way, the Wisconsin Badgers AD left that conversation feeling like it was time to make a change – and in short order.

Coach Chryst was fired or resigned, maybe both? Nevertheless, he was no longer the HC of the Wisconsin Badgers. Chris McIntosh moved quickly, promoting Jim Leonhard to interim head coach for two reasons:

  • It was the most logical choice (Jim is a rising star).
  • The promotion gave him time to evaluate Leonhard as a potential long-term solution.

In the end, coach Leonhard led UW to a 4-3 record, and the Wisconsin Badgers became bowl eligible for the 21st straight season.

The Decision

Everyone and their cousin thought Jim Leonhard was the next head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers. Some media outlets even reported that it was essentially a done deal, and his promotion was more of a formality…so we thought.

Little did we know, McIntosh was in talks with Cincinnati HC Luke Fickell – dating back to the Iowa game. The timing of the job posting and the announcement date all points to Fickell being the succession plan all along – with the benefit of hindsight, that is.

Chris McIntosh went outside the “Badger family” to hire Luke Fickell, paid top-flight money, and made a statement about what he thinks the University of Wisconsin is + can become.

I have to give credit where credit is due. Chris McIntosh made a move that could ultimately define his legacy as AD of the Wisconsin Badgers. He also acknowledged UW had an issue – and made a tough decision for the betterment of the program.

That decision has already led to landing one of the nation’s top offensive coordinators and talented QBs and WRs WANTING to come to play for the Wisconsin Badgers BECAUSE of their offense. Imagine thinking that was even a possibility three months ago.

Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the Wisconsin football program could execute such a masterful off-season plan – even on paper. Nobody knows if this will work out in the end, but I know that optimism amongst the Wisconsin Badgers fanbase is at an all-time high.

Chris McIntosh deserves a tip of the cap for making this all happen; the man has STONES.

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Dillon Graff is a Substack newsletter best-selling author, publisher of AllBadgers, and the owner of, your go-to source for in-depth coverage of the Wisconsin Badgers. His work has been featured in top media publications like USA Today's BadgersWire, Athlon Sports, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, Bucky's 5th Quarter, and FanSided.