Lance Leipold doesn’t make promises about a timeline, but plans to rebuild KU football ‘the right way’
photo by: AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
Lance Leipold didn’t walk into his new job as the head football coach at the University of Kansas blindly. And in his research Leipold saw a program he felt like he could help.
In his first interview since becoming the Jayhawks’ new leader, Leipold said Saturday while sitting down with Brian Hanni of the Jayhawk Sports Network that he’s excited for the challenge of rebuilding the program.
So how far away is KU football, which went winless in 2020 and has won three or fewer games each of the past 11 seasons, from being competitive?
“That’s a pretty loaded question,” Leipold began in an interview that aired during halftime of the team’s spring game. “I always think if you can work on that improvement, do some things, find ways to get games into the fourth quarter, bowl eligibility isn’t far off. Now, we’re not here to make promises,” he added about a timeline for KU reaching its first bowl game since 2008. “I’m going to promise that the staff we assemble and the people in our program will do it the right way. And we’re going to work every day to make everyone affiliated with this program proud.”
At his last job, Buffalo brought Leipold in to turn the MAC program around. The Bulls finished 14 of the 16 seasons before Leipold took over with a losing record. But in each of the final four years of his six-year stint at Buffalo, Leipold’s teams posted winning records.
The new coach said the recipe he used at Buffalo is one he plans to follow at KU.
“All of the sudden, you find yourself at bowl eligibility and the next year you’re playing in a conference championship,” Leipold said, referencing a 6-6 showing in his third year with the Bulls being followed up by a 10-4 season and a spot in the MAC title game in 2018. “We’re going to do our best to make that happen here, and sooner than later.”
As Leipold takes over the program, he said there’s a lot for him to address. His to-do list includes recruiting, preparing for summer camps and getting offseason strength and conditioning program plans in place.
More pressing, though, for Leipold is talking one-on-one with the people who know the program best.
A source told the Journal-World Leipold planned to meet with the team’s assistant coaches one-on-one on Sunday.
The new head coach also said in his interview with the Jayhawk Sports Network he wants to meet one-on-one with all of the players in the days and weeks ahead.
“It’s been tough on them,” Leipold said of the offseason coaching transition. “And they’re looking for where the direction’s going to be and who they’re going to be around, and we’re going to try to get there as soon as we can.”
In his discussions with KU’s players, Leipold said he wants to break the ice and let them ask questions, but he also wants to hear about each player’s background.
The coach said he doesn’t want to have to call a player by his jersey number during a practice.
“Trust and relationships are so important today, and that’s really what it’s about — find out a little about them, see what they’ve gone through and hopefully kind of help them proceed along the way,” Leipold said.