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Asked again about the Nebraska opening, Lance Leipold shows strong commitment to Kansas; now how does KU make sure it stays that way

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Kansas head coach Lance Leipold and the Jayhawks get ready to take the field against Tennessee Tech on Friday, Sept. 2, 2022 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold and the Jayhawks get ready to take the field against Tennessee Tech on Friday, Sept. 2, 2022 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

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.

Comments

Rae Bricil 1 week ago

all nice sentiments and what else is he going to say at this stage?---he cannot say "yeah, i would consider it if they offered enough money"--which is likely the reality.

the conjecture that exists in sports and the ecosystem it supports is insane. I dont have cable but when i travel for work i watch espn --looking for what used to be sports center--and now it is just filled with talk heads--and what feels like thousands of them with ridiculous opinions that seem to be only based on driving shock/ clicks.

the fact that Stephen Smith is basically the face of ESPN says it all...

Jonathan Allison 1 week ago

the message is pretty clear. If Kansas isn't prepared to invest heavily in football particularly in terms of stadium and facilities then there is no way they will keep head coach LL.

It has to happen now. There have been so many times we've head rumors and seen architectural renderings and so on and then the team falters, the coach is fired, and then we don't hear about stadium improvements again for another 2 or 3 years.

KU is not going to be able to pay LL enough to keep him here based on salary alone. The key will be investing in the stadium project and giving him as much of a voice in the process as he wants. And he still might leave, but KU football needs the investments, and the cost of hiring a new coach and starting another rebuild vs taking the risk of investing the money and trying to keep LL and continue on the winning path selling tickets, selling merch. I'm not a finance professional but I have to think the probability for huge losses is extremely high if we can't keep him around, and the probability of record earnings is significant if we can.

Eliott Reeder 1 week ago

I feel like Leipold is smarter than all the pundits who predict he'll take off for a big paycheck. I think he understands the difference between the long leash he will continue have at Kansas to rebuild and sustain, as opposed to the very short leash he would have at Nebraska. Even if we lose every game the rest of this year, he will STILL be adored in Lawrence and fans will have faith in the process and support him for a long while. You only win 4 or 5 games at NU and you're gone. I also think LL understands how legacy is built, and that he could become a true legend at KU like Snyder at KSU and coach till he's 75 if he wanted to. Snyder turned down a ton of offers from bigger schools and the NFL during his tenure in Manhattan. Now the man is basically a living football god in western Kansas.

On the other hand, perhaps the Nebraska job is LL's dream gig, a la Roy and UNC. If that's the case, it is what it is. Leipold seems like a guy who values relationships above all else, and I think he's built very strong relationships and trust with our players that would be very difficult to walk away from at this early stage in the process. Also, I think he understands the NU job will likely still be there waiting for him down the line if he continues to be successful here.

Alex Berger 1 week ago

I am sure Goff and KU understand that keeping Leipold is the doorway to hundreds of millions of dollars through conference realignment and donor buy-in on upcoming projects. Girod recently said that he understands that everything is being driven by football so hopefully they'll not let Leipold get away because of money. Now if Leipold leaves because of the prestige and resources of another program that's understandable, but KU should match any contract that is offered.

However, I wonder if Coach K is the successor and if Leipold leaves, our future coach is already on staff.

Eliott Reeder 1 week ago

If LL leaves, K is going with him. Staff continuity is one of the hallmarks of Leipold's success.

Joey Meyer 1 week ago

Agreed, it definitely has been. I'm sure part of Leipold's decision to go would factor in Coach K.

But what if we really wanted continuity and to keep this team humming? Keep the team together and this awesome offense going?

Could a Power 5, $2M+ or $3M+ head-coaching position entice Coach K to stay? It would be worth it to us to make that happen.

No current assistant coach in the country is north of $2M (in my brief research). Venables was making more before leaving for OU.

Dirk Medema 1 week ago

The Lance and Kelly Leipold Graduate Assistant Fund doesn’t seem to need a stronger commitment from KU. That’s Lance and Kelly’s baby. It shows his already strong commitment to KU and the program he is building to win championships.

The fact that he’s giving his $ back to the program is one indication to me that $, and taking more $, is not as significant as all the little pieces that go into building a program.

He’s repeatedly told us what’s important. It’s the same thing he’s told his players. It’s the day to day improvement. It’s responding positively when everything doesn’t go right. It’s supporting the program by not only filling the stadium but being loud and supportive for the duration.

He is living build it and they will come. Travis also seems to understand build it and they will stay.

Coach Self demonstrated the same thing when he could have asked for any raise he wanted after the 2008 NC. Instead, he said invest in the player facilities.

Support the team and the stadium project. That will support Lance honoring his original goal of creating a championship program at KU.

Benny Armstrong 1 week ago

Matt, I'm curious to get your take on the untapped economic potential that the athletic department could leverage if we continue on this trajectory and see even moderate success with the football team. I recall an article from Sam Mellinger at the Star where he explained that Self and the basketball program are in a unique situation where they're asked to carry the athletic department's budget whereas most other power five schools rely heavily on their football programs to fund the majority of the department and in particular those non-revenue sports. Even as successful as the basketball team has been, there are limits to the amount of revenue it can bring in each year.

If KU were to build on this start and experience even moderate success in the form of winning 6-8 games a year for the foreseeable future, then we could see the stadium regularly sell out, increasing ticket and concession revenue. Next step down the road would be to raise ticket prices since they are still "cheap" relative to others in the Big 12. Add in increased merchandise sales and potential bowl money, and we're looking at a situation where the football program is carrying more of the weight and lifting all boats in the athletic department. That increased revenue could go toward the salaries of Leipold and his staff and may not significantly straining the budget.

Obviously there are a lot of moving parts in the above and a lot of things that have to go right for that to become a reality. And I recognize that we still won't have the TV money to compete with Nebraska, but this seems like a potential pathway for the program to try and find the money to keep him, all other things being equal.

Dale Rogers 1 week ago

I hope Goff asks LL what it will take to keep him here, then give those things to him. I would bet one of those things is more money and longer contracts for his assistants, a la Bill Self did.

Everyone seems to think he would leave for money. I don't think he would so long as he's getting a good deal here. Reason? He's 58 and has expressed a like for Lawrence, both him and his family. He's not that far from retirement. I think he would like to retire in Lawrence, to build something here that he will be remembered for.

Obviously I could be wrong, but having been retired myself for a number of years I know that if the money is decent, other things have the priority in your life.

David Robinett 1 week ago

Some wag once said “if you can fake sincerity you’ve got it made“.

That is just not who Lance Liepold is. I just cannot picture him preaching commitment and then walking away from this town, these players, these administrators. At least that is my hope

Bill French 6 days, 23 hours ago

Love the Lance! Do the right thing by him and make him happy with $$& or whatever he wants. Fill the BOOTH

Bj Cassady 6 days, 22 hours ago

  1. Fill the stadium 2. Pay the assistants 3. Make the stadium state of the art 4. upgrade all football facilities 5. Open the checkbook for LL

Pius Waldman 6 days, 21 hours ago

I believe Nebraska is not capable of returning to winning championships. Big BIG has power teams that Nebraska can't beat regularly. Surely Lance can see that.

Dave Roberts 6 days, 17 hours ago

"Asked again about the Nebraska opening, Lance Leipold shows strong commitment to Kansas; now how does KU make sure it stays that way " Posted by Matt Tait

September 21, 2022 at 8:25 a.m. ... ; doesn't seem to be anyway to cause LL to leave, unless we really have a Death Wish deep down in the subterranean lake and rivers, and subterrranean rivers stretcting in nearly every drection. If it doesn't work and for some obscure reasoning LL and fPlusgenerouramily doecide o take aheap .Give him the salary he wants in additon to adding random amount s to each AC's annual.

John Myers 6 days, 16 hours ago

Do whatever it takes. Anything. TBH, after the last decade plus of horrible football, I’d rather see Self leave than Leipold.

Jeff Coffman 6 days, 14 hours ago

I've said it before, Nebraska hiring HCLL would be disappointing to their fanbase. They want championships and someone who was 2-10 last year and yes 3-0 this year is 5-10 over a 2 year period, and at Buffalo he did turn around the team, but not to the NC that Wis-x did. He is a fantastic coach and will flourish at KU.

Nebraska will hire Urban Meyer or will steal away a top Big 10 OC/DC. Lance Leipold might get offers to leave, but Nebraska will be unlikely the destination.

I also think that he will be considered a King in Lawrence with a 7-5 record, at Nebraska he would be on the hot seat.

Len Shaffer 6 days, 13 hours ago

"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."

Well said, Matt! I still can't believe how good KU looks in only his second (and really his first full) season.

Edward Daub 6 days, 9 hours ago

After listening to the Ryan Leaf interview of Lance Leipold, I never heard the "Nebraska" word mentioned.

We need to "Leaf" Lance Leipold alone, and let him focus on the task at hand!

The only game that matters right now, is Duke this Saturday, one game at a time, one week at a time!

Matt Tait enjoys "blowing everything out of proportion" and "looking too far ahead", in my humble opinion.

However, I do understand that sports writers get paid to attract readers attention, and he has done that!

Rock Chalk!

Joey Meyer 6 days, 7 hours ago

Not really - look at the content from national writers, NU top coaching targets, national commentators, and all the reporting online (not just LJW). His name is ALL over. This is not too far ahead at all; here, on this site, it feels like Matt is digging at a program who just started to feel success. But nationally? This article is very timely given what is being discussed nationally.

Edward Daub 6 days ago

Joey, I agree it is a national story. But, I disagree with local media "fanning the flames". Ryan Leaf never mentioned Nebraska, so this article and title are misleading. This is a huge distraction for coaches and players. Leave Lance Leipold alone, pretty please.

Dirk Medema 5 days, 20 hours ago

Edward - If you just read the articles, then it might appear that Matt is fanning the flames. I’d suggest you go back to the video of the first news conference after Frost was fired. Matt handled the topic and phrased the question absolutely perfectly. Gotta ask the question so let’s get it out of the way so we can move on to talk about Houston. I think it’s part of the reason Lance thanked him, and a complete contrast to other times when reporters will badger a coach about a topic if they don’t get an answer they want, or the coach is evasive. Even Coach Leipold has shown some annoyance when other reporters have done this. Matt handled it perfectly.

Others have repeatedly brought it up and will continue to bring it up until every position is filled (or KU flops) and there’s something new to write about. Just like being ranked, it’s part of the result of success. It’s better to have it than not be successful. We as fans need to learn from Coach’s message to the team. Let’s focus on doing the right things.

Dirk Medema 5 days, 11 hours ago

Edward - You also are absolutely right that Ryan didn’t ask about Nebraska specifically. He asked about openings in general. Last week, which is where Matt’s discussion began, Nebraska was the only opening. There are more openings now, though Nebraska still gets most of the attention especially related to Lance.

I must add that in relistening, I appreciated Ryan’s questions. He didn’t ask about another job, he asked Coach how he handles the talk about the other jobs. The focus was on Coach Leipold more than the other job.

Randy Bombardier 4 days ago

I'm not even going to read the comments by the Iowa State and K-state trolls or the Nebraska people on here, but this i know that Lance Leipold and AD Travis Goff trust one another. You can't buy that. We're dealing with men of integrity so ignore the bs.

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