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Former Badgers DC Jim Leonhard takes coaching role with rival Illinois

One of the biggest coaching names for the Badgers is heading down south to Illinois.

Former Wisconsin Badgers interim head coach and defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard has accepted a role with the Illinois Fighting Illini as a senior football analyst, the school announced Tuesday.

Leonhard, a Badgers legend, has been in the shadows since being bypassed for the full-time head coaching role at Wisconsin in favor of Luke Fickell, with reports suggesting that he could step away for the entire 2023-2024 season before returning to the coaching realm.

But, he has found his next destination, and at a very familiar place in Champaign, where he’ll join up with former Badgers head coach Bret Bielema as an analyst.

In addition to Bielema, Leonhard joins Aaron Henry and Antonio Fenelus, who both had stints in Madison before making the move to Illinois.

Leonhard had taken some time away due to hip surgery, which was perceived to be a part of the reason for his time away, but now appears ready to return to the coaching realm, and be a voice in the room for the Fighting Illini.

The Badgers longtime defensive coordinator has been in the mix for several NFL and college defensive coordinator roles, and could return back to the top ranks as soon as next season.

But, for now, Leonhard is back in the Big Ten, and at Illinois, where he’ll get to see his former team in October.