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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, September 21, 2023
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Wisconsin loses the Axe rivalry game versus Minnesota 23-16 at Camp Randall at the University of Wisconsin–Madison on Nov. 26, 2022.

Jim Leonhard takes position with Illinois Fighting Illini

The former Badgers interim head coach found a new opportunity with Wisconsin rivals

Jim Leonhard accepted a position with the University of Illinois’ football program as a senior defensive analyst July 25, according to multiple sources.

Leonhard served as the Badgers interim head coach after University of Wisconsin-Madison Athletic Director Chris McIntosh fired Paul Chryst on October 2, 2022. Leonhard led Wisconsin to a 4-3 record in the remaining regular season after he took the reins, including two wins at Nebraska and Northwestern.

After Leonhard secured a bowl game appearance for the Badgers’ 20th season in a row, UW-Madison hired Luke Fickell just a few weeks before the Badgers played Oklahoma State in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. Leonhard, Fickell and the university held discussions and came to the agreement that Leonhard would depart at the end of the 2022 regular season, allowing Fickell to take over for the bowl game.  

Leonhard served as head defensive coordinator under Chryst for five years prior to his short stint as interim head coach. During his time as defensive coordinator, he steered the Badgers defense to a top-10 national rank in four of his five seasons, including the first overall defense in the nation two different seasons.

Leonhard will take on an analyst role under Fighting Illini Head Coach Brett Bielema, who led the Illini to eight wins — including a 34-10 walloping of the Badgers at Camp Randall — and a bowl game appearance. The Fighting Illini also boasted the number one ranked scoring defense in the nation last season. 

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