The vast majority of coaches — like the vast majority of people — will never make more than $500,000 a year. Those that do often spend decades getting there.
Not Jim Leonhard. He needed less than two years.
Leonhard was promoted to Wisconsin’s defenisve coordinator spot in February and is being paid accordingly. The Wisconsin State Journal reported Monday Leonhard has signed a 2-year contract paying him $600,000 in 2017 and $625,000 in ’18. That figure is $100,000 above what Justin Wilcox earned as the Badgers’ defensive coordinator in 2016 but $350,000 below what he would have earned in ’17 had the California head job not come open.
Leonhard joined Paul Chryst’s staff in 2016 as defensive backs coach, his first coaching job at any level. He’s not just any random inexperienced coach though. Quite the opposite. Leonhard was a 3-time All-Big Ten performer as a Badgers safety and spent 10 years in the NFL before his return to Madison.
“To me, for a coordinator, there has to be certainly a football knowledge level,” Chryst said at the time of Leonhard’s promotion. “Jimmy has far more than just a one-year level of coaching knowledge; X’s and O’s, scheme knowledge. In fact, I think he has got great football schematic knowledge.
“And, then, I think a big part of coordinating is connecting. It’s connecting the coaches and coming up with and coordinating the different units into a scheme. It’s connecting the coaches to players. It’s finding ways to connect players to players and how you play.
“It’s connecting how one unit plays off the other two units. In this case, how does the defense play off of and with the offense and the special teams? Jimmy has a skill that he can connect groups of people. As a coach, teacher, I thought he’d be really good last year at this time.
“Now, I know that he’s a heckuva teacher.”