Wisconsin Badgers interim head coach Jim Leonhard Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

After the Wisconsin Badgers fired head coach Paul Chryst, longtime defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard was elevated to interim head coach.

However, when it came time to hire their next head coach, they looked past Leonhard and hired Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell as the team’s next coach.

Leonhard stayed on as defensive coordinator but announced that he would be leaving Wisconsin at the end of the 2022 football season.

Now, the former NFL player has resurfaced at Wisconsin’s rival.

Illinois announced on Tuesday that it had hired Leonhard as its new senior football analyst.

It’s a pretty bold hire considering how much Leonhard is associated with Wisconsin.

“A 2015 inductee to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame, Leonhard’s long list of accolades includes being a three-time first-team All-American, three-time All-Big Ten first-team selection, two-time Academic All-American, and two-time team captain,” read Illinois’s release.

The move certainly garnered some strong reactions on social media.

Leonhard’s defenses at Wisconsin were among the toughest in the nation. In his first five seasons as defensive coordinator, Wisconsin ranked among the nation’s top five in total defense and top 10 in scoring defense four times. In 2021, they allowed just 239.1 yards per game, the lowest total at Wisconsin since 1954.

It’ll be very interesting to see what kind of impact he has on the Illini.


About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.