Jim Leonhard announces he’s leaving Badgers after bowl game

MADISON, Wis. — After serving as the interim head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers football team for part of the 2022 season following Paul Chryst’s ouster, Jim Leonhard has announced he will be leaving the team.

In a tweet Tuesday night, Leonhard said “it has meant the world to me to be able to pour my heart and soul into the UW,” but that he will be leaving the Badgers following the bowl game.

“After discussions with my family and Coach (Luke) Fickell, I will remain the (defensive coordinator) through the bowl game but no longer be a part of the staff after the conclusion of the 2022 season,” he wrote.

Leonhard did not say what his next move may be.

He had been seen as a favorite to take over the head coaching job full-time before the Badgers announced Fickell’s hire on Nov. 27.

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Leonhard had been the Badgers’ defensive coordinator since 2017 before taking over the top job following Chryst’s firing. The Badgers went 4-3 under Leonhard’s leadership.

Tuesday’s announcement is the latest shakeup on the Badgers’ roster since Fickell was hired. Starting quarterback Graham Mertz announced over the weekend he will enter the transfer portal.

The Badgers will take on Oklahoma State in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl on Dec. 27.

Players react

Following Leonhard’s announcement, a number of Badgers took to social media to thank him for his devotion to the team.

Running back Braelon Allen tweeted Leonhard is “One of the best to ever do it.”

Outside linebacker Nick Herbig called Leonhard “THE GREATEST BADGER OF ALL TIME!!!! ON AND OFF THE FIELD.”

“One of the brightest and greatest men in the game, and an inspiration to all underdogs out there,” Matt Henningsen, a defensive lineman with the Denver Broncos and a former Badger, wrote. “I wouldn’t be where I am without Coach Leonhard.”