For over a decade, the Jayhawks sat alone in the cellar of Big 12 football, cycling through six head coaches and a 26-115 record.
Now, five games into the season, the Jayhawks are entrenched in the era of new head coach Lance Leipold and his newly formed coaching staff.
Leipold and the rest of the KU Football’s coaching staff have a successful track record together during their stints at the Universities of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Buffalo, and I am hopeful they find the same success with the Jayhawks.
Leipold began his coaching career in 1987 as a quarterbacks coach at Wisconsin-Whitewater. Two years and two conference titles later, in 1989, Leipold worked as an assistant coach at Doane University; the team finished with a 5-4-1 record that season. (Source?)
One year later, Leipold rejoined his alma mater as an assistant coach, this time winning the WIAC conference championship with a 10-1 record.
Following the path of many young and successful coaches before him, Leipold was on the move again — this time to Division I football as an assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin. From 1991 to 1993, he worked as a graduate assistant for the Badgers accumulating a 20-13 record.
At Wisconsin, we saw Leipold's offensive philosophies flourish as he helped coach a dominant run game that rushed for nearly 200 yards and nearly 2 rushing touchdowns each game.
Leipold built on his success at Wisconsin with assistant coaching stints at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and the University of Nebraska for six and three seasons, respectively.
Leipold returned to Nebraska-Omaha in 2004, this time as the offensive coordinator. As a coordinator, Leipold had more control which allowed his run-first mentality to reach its full potential, resulting in 8,122 rushing yards over three years — compared to only 5,043 passing yards.
In his 33 games as coordinator, Leipold’s offense scored at least 28 points in 21 instances and averaged 33.3 points per game. With Leipold calling the offensive shots, the Nebraska-Omaha won three straight North Central Conference championships and Leipold cemented himself as a valuable football mind.
In 2007, Leipold earned his first head coaching job where it all began: Wisconsin-Whitewater.
There, Leipold’s team showcased pure dominance with help from coordinators Andy Kotelnicki and Brian Borland, both of whom are now part of his coaching staff at KU. From 2007-2014, their record was 109-6, making him the fastest coach to 100 wins in NCAA history.
With a 53-3 conference record, Leipold’s team dominated the WIAC. In his eight seasons, Leipold won eight conference championships and 6 national championships.
After 2014, and a historically dominant run, Leipold returned to Division 1 football to serve as the head coach at the Buffalo, bringing with him Kotelnicki and Borland.
From 2015-2020, he earned a 37-33 record, including a 25-20 in-conference record. After growing comfortable and installing his offensive system, Buffalo finished 24-10, including 17-4 in conference play, over his final three seasons. Again, we saw Leipold's successful run-first mentality as the team accumulated 13,101 rushing yards in his tenure at Buffalo, averaging 187.15 yards per game. His offense exploded in 2019 as they averaged 250.5 rushing yards per game.
In his final three seasons with Buffalo, Leipold brought them to the Dollar General Bowl in 2018, the Bahamas Bowl in 2019, and the Camellia Bowl in 2020, winning the last two.
Finally, in 2021, Leipold accepted KU’s head coaching position, again bringing with him coordinators Kotelnicki and Borland.
Kotelnicki is a proven offensive guru who helped coordinate one of the greatest rushing attacks in WIAC history, leading the conference in scoring, rushing yards and passing yards in 2014, and Leipold’s decision to include him on KU’s coaching staff was the right one.
Although the KU defense currently allows 493.8 offensive yards a game and a dismal 43.8 points per game, Borland has an impressive resume that indicates he will help the young defense turn it around; at Buffalo, he coached 20 defensive players that earned all-conference honors and five players drafted to the NFL.
Five games into the 2021 season, the Jayhawks sit at 1-4. They average 336 yards of offense per game, 154.4 of which coming from the ground and are allowing 24.4 first downs on defense. Their record and stats do not reflect the talent on the roster, and Jayhawk fans have plenty to look forward to.
With a dedicated coaching staff, and their decorated track record, KU fans can expect improvement by the end of the season. In Leipold’s first two years at Buffalo, the team went 7-17. If there is ever a time for KU to crawl out of the Big 12 cellar, it is during the Leipold era.