The Kansas football program had quite an upheaval this offseason, with Les Miles and athletic director Jeff Long losing their jobs after details of Miles’ behavior at LSU came to light.
It’s a weird time to have to find a replacement, with the college carousel at large having come to a halt much earlier in 2021. Now, though, the Jayhawks have their next coach, coming to terms with Buffalo’s Lance Leipold.
Yahoo’s Pete Thamel reported the hire:
Buffalo coach Lance Leipold has finalized a deal to be the next head coach at Kansas, according to multiple sources. Leipold emerged out of a finalist pool that included Army’s Jeff Monken, Louisiana Tech’s Skip Holtz, and Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko.
Leipold’s ability to turn around Buffalo, a traditional have-not in the MAC, proved attractive to the Kansas brass. They realized with the firing of Les Miles that Leipold’s experience rebuilding Buffalo into a consistent MAC contender will be valuable for the total rebuild that’s necessary there. Kansas is coming off a winless season and has lost 13 consecutive games dating back to October of 2019.
Leipold is a pretty solid hire, even if making the jump from the MAC to the Big 12 is a tall ask. Just 56, Leipold won six national championships at DIII Wisconsin-Whitewater before moving to Buffalo. While in New York, Leipold turned the Bulls from an also-ran to winning two bowl games in the last two seasons. Last year, Buffalo was unbeaten until falling to Ball State in the MAC title game.
That’s a varied resume, of course, but it’s the sort of hire that makes a lot of sense at a school like Kansas. If Leipold is backed with time and resources, it’s the kind of build that could really take hold and take off.
That’s the opposite of their last move; even ignoring the off-field issues, for Les Miles to be successful in Lawrence, it was almost certainly going to be dependent on a fast start. Miles was never going to be a builder; you hire him for a school that’s either ready to win or that you hope the flash of a big name and a press conference win is enough to jumpstart recruiting and get things rolling. The longer things went without success, though, the more apparent the icing-to-cake ratio became.
Leipold, though, is a proven program-builder, with the kind of background that could portend success, while also being the kind of profile that other power conference schools might overlook. But someone like Tom Allen had a similar path to taking over at Indiana, and he’s done pretty well there. Kansas football is always going to have to think outside the box, and Leipold certainly counts as that, in the best of ways.