The firing of Paul Chryst marked the end of an era for Wisconsin football.
After a 2-3 start to the 2022 season and a home loss to Illinois, the Badgers gave Chryst — the coach with multiple 10+ win seasons, wins in the Cotton and Orange bowls and a trip to the Rose — the boot. A replacement wouldn’t come until after the season.
The Guaranteed Rate Bowl will be the first in the Luke Fickell era. After taking Cincinnati to a Peach Bowl and College Football Playoff, Fickell decided to make the Power Five jump and pack his bags for Madison.
Decisions he won’t be making are personnel and plays.
“It would be pretty arrogant of me to walk in here and think I could make a better decision in three weeks than what (the assistant coaches) have seen over a long period of time,” Fickell said. “Those guys have got a grasp on what we have to do to be successful. We sat down, we talked. It’s going to be a little bit of a different situation. He got to do what’s best for us. I believe they have got the best idea of what that is.”
The Badgers will be playing without their starting quarterback, Graham Mertz, who transferred to Florida after the regular season. Most of the other starters are there. Winning the Guaranteed Rate Bowl won’t change the minds of the players who already entered the portal and found new homes after a 6-6 season. But for those who stayed, it would symbolically signify what is to come for Fickell and Wisconsin football — for recruiting and for culture building.
“These games are rewards,” Fickell said. “The reward is to go play a game and compete against a great opponent. But more than anything, it’s a reward for everybody and all that they put in, and all the work that they have done.
Just having this opportunity to be around these guys for the last three-and-a-half weeks has really given me an advantage in relationship building.”