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Successful rookie season leads Wisconsin to promote Jim Leonhard to DC

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Most coaches work their entire careers to become a coordinator in the Big Ten. Few of them even reach that far. Jim Leonhard has done it in one year.

To be clear, there is a lot more to this story than Leonhard’s one year ascension from defensive backs coach to the Wisconsin defensive coordinator job, which the Badgers announced Thursday. He was a prototypical Favorite Son as a player for Barry Alvarez, earning three All-Big Ten honors as a Badgers safety (pictured above). He then crafted a 10-year career as an NFL defensive back for various teams before returning to Madison in 2016, helping Wisconsin rank 10th nationally in pass efficiency defense.

That success led Paul Chryst to promote Leonhard to the big chair in Wisconsin’s defensive staff room.

Said Leonhard, to Wisconsin’s official team site:

“A year ago, if you were to ask me if this was going to happen, I’d probably would have laughed at you — not knowing exactly how it was going to go and how it would work out,” said Leonhard, who had no previous coaching experience prior to taking over the UW secondary last season.

“Paul brought me in and asked me if I was interested. He thought I was ready and he thought I could handle it. I was excited about the possibility and kind of wanted to see where I was at — if I really wanted to entertain the idea.

“It went a lot of places initially,” Leonhard acknowledged of his thought process, “trying to decide if it was the right time and if I was ready. The actual calling of the plays and designing everything, I feel very comfortable with. It’s the rest …

“It’s building the relationships with the guys and the staff. It’s making sure of all the details in the day-to-day (operation). It’s structuring practices and meetings. It’s kind of the whole big picture of it. I was just making sure I was going to be comfortable with that and the time that went along with it.

“The longer I thought about it,” said Leonhard, the energy building in his voice, “the more excited I got about the possibilities and what could happen and I jumped at the opportunity.”

Added Chryst:

“To me, for a coordinator, there has to be certainly a football knowledge level,” Chryst said. “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.”

Leonhard steps into one of the best springboard jobs in all of college football. Dave Aranda turned a respected run as Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator into becoming the highest-paid assistant in college football as LSU’s defensive coordinator, and Justin Wilcox created the vacancy Leonhard filled when he became the head coach at California last month.

Transferring Kentucky LB Eli Brown tweets move to Western Kentucky

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It had been thought that, despite moving on from Kentucky, Eli Brown could very well end up staying in the commonwealth.  This weekend, those thoughts proved prophetic.

On his personal Twitter account Saturday evening, Brown confirmed that he would be continuing his collegiate playing career at Western Kentucky.  The announcement comes almost exactly six weeks after the linebacker had confirmed he would be transferring from Kentucky.

A four-star member of UK’s 2015 recruiting class, Brown was rated as the No. 20 outside linebacker in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Kentucky according to  Brown was the highest-rated player in the Wildcats’ class that year.

After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Brown played in 12 games in 2016.  Because of injuries to others, the 6-2, 215-pound redshirt sophomore started five games this past season and was seemingly in line for significant playing time in 2018 prior to his decision to transfer.

Thanks to football ticket sales, Iowa athletic department finishes in the black for first time in three years

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Iowa football finished just 8-5 last season but their biggest win for the school might have been at the box office.

A $4 million boost in ticket sales for the Hawkeyes played a big role in the athletic department finishing in the black during the most recent fiscal year, according to documents obtained by It is the first time Iowa has shown a profit in three years as a result.

“When you look at the trends across the country in football attendance and basketball attendance, just nationally there seems to be a reduction,” athletics director Gary Barta told the site. “So I’m pleased generally that we’re holding our own. It seems to fluctuate a little bit more depending on good season/bad season. But for the most part we still have that core of support that’s as good as anywhere.”

Iowa managed a whopping $130.68 million in revenue overall according to reports given to the NCAA and spent around $128.9 million in the same time frame. A good chunk of that cash came as a result of the football program, including the school-record $23.7 million in football ticket sales.

Even with cost increases and salary spikes, it seems like the trend of finishing revenue positive for the department is likely to continue given the massive increases coming the way of Big Ten schools the next few years in television revenue from the conference. As big as some of the numbers put up by the Hawkeyes are though, they still trail others like Texas and Texas A&M by nearly $70 million in the last fiscal year.

$175 million UAB stadium proposal takes next step after Alabama passes new tax law

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It’s hard to believe that prior to last season, UAB didn’t have a football team for two years. As successful as the Blazers re-launch in the sport has been though, the next step for the program to truly be competitive in the sports landscape might have just happened on the desk of the governor this week. notes that Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a new tax law for Jefferson County that would provide a significant sum of money for a new UAB football stadium as well as other improvements to the sprawling Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) that already houses the arena for the program’s basketball teams.

Though there has been no contractual commitment to build the stadium just yet, the passing of the tax bill to provide some of the revenues needed is one of the first steps local leaders were hoping for. Current plans have the authorities responsible looking at building a 45,000-55,000 seat stadium for UAB football at an estimated cost of $175 million. The school is expected to chip in nearly $4 million a year toward the cost in lease payments.

It’s unclear as to the exact site of the potential stadium but it is expected to be in the downtown area somewhere near the current BJCC complex. It goes without saying that any new stadium, even an off campus such as this one, would be a massive upgrade from the Blazers current home Legion Field.

With the new law out of the way, the next steps appear to reside with local authorities to finalize plans and firmly commit to building the new venue. Construction on the new stadium is expected to begin in December of 2018 once the final green light is given.

Needless to say, UAB football is not only back but it certainly appears better than ever given this recent bit of news.

In addition to Notre Dame series, Alabama reportedly working on home-and-home with Texas too

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Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne seems to have shifted the Crimson Tide’s scheduling philosophy from having big neutral site openers for the football team to instead scheduling opponents the team has recently beat for a national title.

Following up their earlier report that said Alabama is looking to set up a home-and-home with historic power Notre Dame, the Tuscaloosa News says the school is also in discussions with Texas for a similar arrangement.

“I’ll say that we are exploring some home-and-homes,” a very coy Byrne told the paper.

The Irish lost to Nick Saban and the Tide in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game while the Longhorns fell out at the Rose Bowl to Alabama in the 2009 title game. The program is currently set to open with Louisville in Orlando for their 2018 opener while Duke (in 2019) and Miami (in 2021) are scheduled for games against the Tide in Atlanta. Outside of those three games and a handful of others against Group of Five opponents though, the schedule is otherwise wide open.

Texas is a different story on that front though as the Longhorns have games at Maryland and home against USC for the upcoming campaign and future dates with LSU (2019, 2020), Arkansas (2021), Ohio State (2022, 2023) and Michigan (2024, 2027). There is room for a home-and-home in 2025 and 2026 however.

Given this flurry of scheduling news and what looks to be a big change in philosophy, it seems like a home-and-home with Clemson is next up on the docket for Byrne and Saban to get done and really make beat-you-for-the-title-schedule-you-later thing an actual thing.