Following Wisconsin’s 23-16 defeat at the hands of Minnesota, interim head coach Jim Leonhard was asked if he was aware of any news regarding his future. That is, was he going to have the interim tag removed and be named the Badgers’ next head coach. His response was that “there have been conversations” with Wisconsin’s athletic department. Whatever those conversations were must have been very secret. Earlier today, it was reported that Wisconsin intended to hire Luke Fickell of Cincinnati as the team’s new head coach. This news brought an onslaught of reactions from both fans and players. Additionally, individuals close to Leonhard reportedly stated that they were “blindsided” by the news.
Have talked to a few people from Jim Leonhard’s circle or those close to it. All used the word “blindsided” by today’s news.
— Jon McNamara (@McNamaraRivals) November 27, 2022
Aside from the news that Jim Leonhard will not be retained as head coach, let’s take a moment to think about one thing. As stated previously, Leonhard told reporters that he had conversations with the athletic department already. Knowing this, we can be sure that he went into the Minnesota game knowing that he was not going to be the head coach. For someone as passionate about Wisconsin football as Leonhard is, this news must have been devastating. However much it must have hurt him as a person, though, he got his team ready as best he could and coached as if the job were already his. That is a remarkable, selfless thing.
In my opinion, the hiring of Luke Fickell is a necessary step to move the Badgers program forward. He is a tremendous coach who has a great deal of success recruiting offensive skill players. Additionally, he took Cincinnati to the College Football Playoff in 2021. As many have stated, this is a “home run” hire. That being said, we would be remiss if we did not take a moment to say a heartfelt “thank you” to Coach Leonhard. This is a man who has given everything to Wisconsin football. As a fan, I hope that he is invited to (and agrees) to stay as defensive coordinator. If he is not, or chooses to leave, I hope (and all Badgers fans should hope) that he has nothing but success at his next stop.