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Northwestern would be wise to pick up the phone and gauge Jim Leonhard’s interest in moving to Evanston.
The Wildcats are looking for a new head coach after Pat Fitzgerald was fired following hazing allegations. The former Northwestern coach was first hit with a two week suspension before being shown the door. Some of the hazing allegations were incredibly disturbing and sexual in nature.
Now, Northwestern is tasked with finding a new head coach and fixing what has become the ultimate nightmare for any program.
The team’s assistants will be retained for the upcoming 2023 season, which gives the program a little bit of runway to find a replacement.
If the Wildcats are serious about turning things around, injecting life into the program and doing it with absolute integrity, then Jim Leonhard should be at the top of the list.
Jim Leonhard makes perfect sense for Northwestern.
Leonhard served as DC for the Wisconsin Badgers for several seasons following a very successful NFL career.
The former NFL DB slid into the interim head coach role following Paul Chryst being fired. The Badgers finished 5-3 under his leadership. However, hiring Luke Fickell – one of the best coaches in America – proved too enticing for Wisconsin’s leadership to take the interim tag of Leonhard.
The former Badgers coach is now taking a year off from coaching before picking a new job. He could be in the NFL or with a major college football program tomorrow if he wanted to. Jim Leonhard has one of the best defensive minds in all of football.
He regularly put together absolutely dominant defenses in Madison, despite lacking major recruits and a ton of NFL talent. He certainly had some, but not the amount you’d find at defenses that rivaled his like at Georgia and Alabama.
Leonhard knows the conference.
Jim Leonhard is a Big Ten man. Northwestern needs a coach who can navigate the recruiting landscape, culture and everything else that comes with the Big Ten.
Prior to being an NFL player, Leonhard was a standout for the Badgers in Madison. His whole career since graduating high school has been playing in the Big Ten, playing in the NFL and coaching in the B1G.
He knows the landscape, the high school coaches and would be the perfect man to help Northwestern through these choppy waters when it comes to the Xs and Os. Some might think Northwestern might be able to lure in a big name coach with B1G ties. Sorry, not going to happen. Established head coaches don’t leave for places where it’s difficult to win, and they definitely don’t do it for a program now facing major problems.
Jim Leonhard’s reputation speaks for itself.
Another reason Leonhard makes unbelievable sense is the man is unimpeachable as a person. You can’t find a person to speak poorly about him.
He was viewed as the chosen son in Madison, and even when he didn’t get the head coaching job, he handled the situation with nothing other than class and grace. You learn a lot more about a person from how they handle loss than you do when they win.
Northwestern is facing down the barrel of complete collapse. The allegations of sexual hazing are brutal. It wouldn’t be shocking if more firings followed.
The program needs someone with a spine made of steel and rock solid character to lead the way. Good luck finding a person better than Jim Leonhard.
Furthermore, and far less important, Leonhard is only 40-years-old and already has several seasons of being a high level DC and interim head coach under his belt. The experience is there, the knowledge is there and the internal fortitude Northwestern needs is there.
If the Wildcats are serious about salvaging this situation, they need to pick up the phone and give Jim Leonhard a call.