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Jim Leonhard says he won’t return to Wisconsin staff

Syndication: Journal Sentinel

Wisconsin head coach Jim Leonhard, center, is shown during the first quarter of their game Saturday, November 26, 2022 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. Uwgrid26 5


MADISON, Wis. -- Jim Leonhard, who served as Wisconsin’s interim coach for the last seven games of the regular season, says he won’t be back with the Badgers next season.

Leonhard tweeted that he would work as Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator for its Dec. 27 Guaranteed Rate Bowl matchup with Oklahoma State but wouldn’t be part of new coach Luke Fickell’s staff next season.

“It has been an honor to coach these young men and thank you to all the fans who supported us along the way,” Leonhard tweeted. “On Wisconsin!”

Leonhard had served as Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator before getting promoted to interim coach after the Oct. 2 firing of Paul Chryst. Leonhard posted a 4-3 record and said he hoped to keep the job beyond this season.

Wisconsin instead hired Fickell, who had gone 57-18 in six seasons at Cincinnati and led the Bearcats to a College Football Playoff appearance last year. Fickell said at his introductory news conference last week that he’d be open to including Leonhard on the staff but added that Leonhard probably would have plenty of options.

Leonhard, a former All-America safety at Wisconsin who played 10 seasons in the NFL, joined Chryst’s staff in 2016 as defensive backs coach and was promoted to defensive coordinator the following year.

Wisconsin led all Football Bowl Subdivision teams in total defense (284.8 yards) and ranked second in pass defense (181.4) and third in run defense (103.4) and scoring defense (17.3 points) over a five-season stretch from 2017-21.

“It has meant the world to me to be able to pour my heart and soul into the UW football program over the last 7 years,” Leonhard tweeted.