McIntosh announces football coaching change
Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard tabbed as interim head coach
MADISON, Wis. – Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard has been named interim head coach of the Wisconsin football team, UW Director of Athletics Chris McIntosh announced Sunday. Leonhard replaces Paul Chryst, who was in his eighth season as the Badgers’ head coach.
“After a heartfelt and authentic conversation with Coach Chryst about what is in the long-term best interest of our football program, I have concluded that now is the time for a change in leadership,” McIntosh said. “Paul is a man of integrity who loves his players. I have great respect and admiration for Paul and the legacy of him and his family at the University of Wisconsin.
“I also have confidence in Jim Leonhard to guide the program for the remainder of the season. There is still a lot of season left to play and I know Jim will do a great job while the program is under his leadership.”
Leonhard is in his seventh season on Wisconsin’s coaching staff. This is his sixth year as defensive coordinator. During that time, he has overseen one of the best units in college football as the Badger defense led the country in total yards allowed and ranked third nationally in scoring defense over the last five seasons.
Leonhard was a three-time All-American as a safety for Wisconsin, tying the school record with 21 career interceptions. He also broke the Big Ten record with 1,347 career punt return yards. A two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American, he also was a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, the prestigious National Football Foundation award referred to as the “Academic Heisman.”
Though he went undrafted, Leonhard put together a 10-year NFL career with Buffalo, Baltimore, the New York Jets, Denver, New Orleans and Cleveland. He played in 142 games as a pro, starting 73 of them.
“I appreciate Chris McIntosh placing his trust in me to lead our team,” Leonhard said. “My focus right now is on our players and moving forward with preparing them for our game on Saturday at Northwestern.
“I owe a lot to Coach Chryst. Everyone in our program does. He gave me my first coaching job, and for that I am forever grateful. As a Badger, I thank him for his impact on our football program and our players over many years.”
In his seven-plus seasons as Wisconsin’s head coach, Chryst led the Badgers to a 67-26 record, including a 43-18 mark in Big Ten Conference play. A two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year, Chryst piloted UW to three Big Ten West Division crowns. His 6-1 mark in bowl games included a pair of New Year’s Six victories.
Wisconsin, 2-3 on the season, continues Big Ten play this Saturday at Northwestern (2:30 p.m. CT on BTN).
COURTESY WISCONSIN ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS