Lance Leipold debuts at No. 35 on list ranking Power Five head coaches
Lance Leipold’s first game leading a Power Five football program is still months away. But the former Wisconsin-Whitewater and Buffalo head coach arrived at the University of Kansas with a strong enough reputation to outrank 30 of his peers in CBS Sports’ annual Power Five coach rankings.
Leipold, who helped turn around UB football before taking the KU job and before that directed Whitewater to a 109-6 record and six Division III national championships in eight seasons, debuted in CBS Sports’ rankings at No. 35.
The way the rankings shook out among Big 12 coaches, Leipold placed in the top half of the league. Five of the conference coaches appeared lower on the list than Leipold. He finished just ahead of Kansas State’s Chris Klieman (37th), and also outranked West Virginia’s Neal Brown (41st), Texas’ Steve Sarkisian (46th), Texas Tech’s Matt Wells (60th) and Baylor’s Dave Aranda (62nd).
CBS Sports determines the rankings by using a panel of college football writers. The votes cast by that group helped Leipold finish higher on this year’s list than such coaches as Dave Doeren (36th, North Carolina State), Chip Kelly (39th, UCLA), Bret Bielema (42nd, Illinois), Eli Drinkwitz (43rd, Missouri), Mike Norvell (44th, Florida State), Scott Frost (47th, Nebraska), Clay Helton (48th, USC), Justin Fuente (49th, Virginia Tech) and Josh Heupel (52nd, Tennessee).
In his six years as an FBS coach, Leipold holds a 37-33 record. After working through back to back losing seasons to open his run at Buffalo, the Bulls finished with a winning record in each of the past four seasons. Leipold began to gain more recognition during the past three years, as UB made it to three straight bowl games and went 24-10 from 2018-20.
By coming in at 35th, Leipold finds himself in a similar position on the list as Les Miles did two years ago, when the former KU head coach was 38th headed into his first season with the Jayhawks.
CBS Sports ranked Miles 43rd a year ago, months ahead of what would become a winless campaign for the Jayhawks, as well the final season for Miles at KU.
KU Athletic Director Travis Goff’s decision to hire Leipold to replace Miles has been well received among many college football pundits and analysts. Both CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd and ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg graded the hire at an A-. Athlon Sports’ Steven Lassan gave the hire an A, while RJ Young of FOX Sports considered it an A+.
Big 12 coaches in CBS Sports’ 2021 Power Five coach rankings
No. 3: Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma
No. 9: Matt Campbell, Iowa State
No. 15: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
No. 19: Gary Patterson, TCU
No. 35: Lance Leipold, Kansas
No. 37: Chris Klieman, Kansas State
No. 41: Neal Brown, West Virginia
No. 46: Steve Sarkisian, Texas
No. 60: Matt Wells, Texas Tech
No. 62: Dave Aranda, Baylor