Asked again about the Nebraska opening, Lance Leipold shows strong commitment to Kansas; now how does KU make sure it stays that way
As the Kansas football team has captured national attention for its 3-0 start, head coach Lance Leipold’s name continues to be one that’s talked about for the open coaching position at Nebraska.
Oddsmakers recently moved Leipold into the position of second favorite to land the Cornhuskers gig, just a shade behind Iowa State coach Matt Campbell as the favorite and four spots up from his position in the No. 6 slot, where he sat when the job first came open.
The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman tweeted Tuesday that sources have told him that Leipold, Campbell and former Penn State coach Bill O’Brien (now the OC at Alabama) are “high on the Huskers’ list as NU’s process begins to unfold.”
Simply put: This connection is not going away. At this point, it’s all about managing it and addressing it — both for Leipold and for the Kansas athletic department.
Asked last week about his reaction to his name landing on various lists of potential Scott Frost replacements at Nebraska, Leipold said he was focused on the Kansas football program and getting ready for the game with Houston, which the Jayhawks won.
Asked again this week by former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf for his Straight Line podcast, Leipold’s commitment to the Kansas program was a little stronger.
“I think you have to stay in the moment, be where your feet are at,” Leipold told Leaf, who visited Lawrence and spoke to the Kansas players before the season began. “My wife, Kelly, and I, we came to Lawrence, Kansas, not to move. At this stage of our career, it’s flattering. …But our focus is (on) trying to build the Kansas Jayhawks into a winner and a consistent winner for the long haul.”
His comment last week and his recent reply to Leaf were no doubt sincere. Leipold’s a genuine guy and he’s not afraid to say how he feels, good, bad or otherwise.
He’s made it clear that he likes Kansas — and Lawrence — and is proud of what he’s doing with the long-suffering program. It’s also clear that his family likes it here, as well.
As the program continues to grow and with whatever success that’s still to come, interest in Leipold from other programs is likely to continue to come, as well.
How he chooses to answer whatever questions come his way is up to him. Finding a way to make sure he’s not interested in leaving is up to Kansas.
There’s only so much AD Travis Goff and the program can do there, but you can be certain that they’re exploring all of their options and darn sure will try to make sure Leipold is happy in Lawrence.
A raise is a given at this point. In fact, if Leipold wins Saturday against Duke and picks up a win against Iowa State or TCU in the two home games that follow, a case could be made for Goff and company to just tear up Leipold’s current contract and start over.
Add years to it. Increase the salary. Increase the buyout and make it clear to the Leipolds that this is where they should want to be.
4-0 or 5-1 at Kansas? In Year 2? That’s a different man than the man they hired to do this job. That’s freakin’ Superman.
Nebraska — and others — are likely always going to be able (and willing) to pay more. For one, there’s Big Ten money in play there. For two, Kansas still has Bill Self’s salary that it needs to keep in mind. And no matter how good Leipold is, he’s not going to be making more than Self any time soon.
So Kansas, if it’s interested in a new contract for Leipold, does not need to worry about matching whatever they think the Huskers might offer.
KU just needs to draw up the best contract it can and stand behind that and the connection and momentum Leipold already has created here.
There are, of course, tricks to how a new contract could be written. Even the fans are getting in on the act. Late Tuesday night, I saw a GoFundMe account started by Aden Bloom that was simply titled: “Keep Lance Leipold at Kansas!!!” As of late Tuesday night, it had $5 in it, but it’s the message more than the money that makes that idea of interest.
As for what KU could do, it could incorporate a rolling contract that always has five years on it so neither Leipold nor the university would ever again have to worry about when they need to extend him.
KU decision makeres could give Leipold a significant say in the stadium renovations and allow him to reshape the bones of the program in his own image the way he has reshaped the product on the field to mirror what he’s about. I don’t think Leipold would abuse that and I know he would have some thoughts and ideas.
They could make an even stronger commitment to supporting the Lance and Kelly Leipold Graduate Assistant Fund and make sure that KU football’s name, image and likeness initiatives are as strong as any in the country so Leipold and his staff would never have to worry about losing players or recruits because of NIL.
The fans have a role in this, too. And their job is simple. Pack the stadium. Support the program. And be loud and proud about it.
The list goes on and on.
It’s important to note that they could do all of this, and then some, and Leipold could still take another job if offered. You just never know how these things are going to play out and even though the words he has said today sound an awful lot like a commitment for the long haul, things change, feelings change and situations become drastically different when they’re real and right in front of you rather than some sort of speculation.
So everything that’s done should be done with that in mind. But it’s clear that KU has found its guy to lead this football program into the future.
Now they just have to make sure they do everything in their power to keep him. If they do that and he still decides to leave someday — be it now or in the future — then at least they can say they tried hard and use that to sell his replacement on why Kansas is suddenly considered to be a good job instead of one of the hardest in college athletics.
Here's the full Ryan Leaf interview with Lance Leipold from yesterday on The Straight Line with Ryan Leaf. Leipold's part starts at the 24:56 mark.