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As Wisconsin football continues to overhaul its coaching staff under new head coach Luke Fickell, the Badgers are expected to retain Jim Leonhard. According to Jeff Portrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and sources in Madison, Leonhard is planning to stay with the program.
With that being said, nothing is official and an announcement has not yet been made. In addition, a staffer within the Wisconsin athletic department was unaware of any potential decision being made when reached for comment by OutKick.
There is time for Leonhard to change his mind. Fickell, who reportedly met with his predecessor last week, could decide to revoke the offer.
Neither of those two things seem likely, with the latter being almost entirely out of the question. Leonhard, who played for the Badgers from 2001-2004, plans to stay at his alma mater.
His future role is unclear, but three options seem most logical.
Leonhard took over as defensive coordinator in 2017. He served in that role until October 2, 2022, when he was named interim head coach after the firing of Paul Chryst.
Leonhard could return as defensive coordinator. Or he could return as co-defensive coordinator alongside Mike Tressel, who was Fickell’s defensive coordinator at Cincinnati.
Tressel’s hire has not been announced publicly, but he was reportedly recruiting for Wisconsin as recently as Friday. Leonhard and Tressel could co-coordinate the defense.
It is also possible that Leonhard may come back as associate head coach alongside Fickell, after not getting the job outright. The exact details of Leonard’s new role remain up in the air, should his retention become official.
Exact details about Jim Leonhard’s return to Wisconsin remain up in the air.
However, regardless of where he fits on the staff, it is anticipated that Leonhard will be back in 2023. That decision will surely invigorate the players, who are expected to get official word as soon as Saturday afternoon.
Leonhard, 40, has spent his entire coaching career in Madison. He retired from the NFL in 2014 after nine years in the league and joined the Badgers staff in 2016.
Wisconsin finished top-five in total and scoring defense four times in his five-year stint as defensive coordinator. If Fickell keeps Leonhard with the Badgers as expected, it’s a very big addition to his first Power Five staff.