LAWRENCE, Kansas. Lance Leipold knows what’s next. With every victory for the Kansas coach, his appeal grows and his horizons expand. But first things first.
For one third of the season, the hot coach of the hot program doesn’t want to lose his offensive coordinator. This is Andy Kotelnicki, an obscure 42-year-old man whose schemes are behind one of the most groundbreaking crimes in the country.
“Don’t write anything about him,” Leipold pleaded after Saturday’s 35-27 win over the previously undefeated Duke. “He needs to stay here. Don’t give him some $2 million. [coordinator’s] Work.”
Late? Kansas is 4-0 for the first time in 13 years, and for many reasons other than the fourth-highest scoring offense in the nation (tied with Tennessee, just above Alabama).
Leipold is what they call a grinder, an emerging type of woodwork that has won wherever it traveled. With three Power Five coaches already fired in September, that also makes him a desirable candidate elsewhere in just his second season in Kansas.
Leipold is one of several coaches who restarted their programs during the third season. You didn’t have to say Kansas hung aroundfor years. The program changed coaches like changing clothes. There was no continuity, let alone talent.
The most valuable ability of a coach these days is the ability to roll over. Scott Frost didn’t have that in Nebraska. So does Jeff Collins at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The state of Arizona was treading water under the leadership of Herm Edwards. All three were fired this month.
Leipold is a flip trainer. Six Division III championships at Wisconsin-Whitewater landed him a job at Buffalo in 2015.. In those six seasons, the Bulls have won two MAC titles and won 10 games for the first time in 2018.
“I really wish that for a month I would just focus on our football team,” Leipold said late Saturday night. “We should try to make it good [shape].”
Leipold’s name had already been mentioned in the discovery of Nebraska. Others may request a coach’s phone number in the coming weeks.
“We’re not going to sit idly by,” Kansas athletic director Travis Goff said. “We’re not going to take things for granted. We’re going to keep building this thing. Basically, we’re not going to let any other situation dictate what’s best for the University of Kansas.”
Goff did not specify, but understands what lies ahead. An undefeated start makes his coach a commodity and therefore a candidate for promotion and renewal, even if Nebraska never calls. Goff had already extended Leipold a year earlier this month as a show of support and a way to renew his original six-year contract.
It took so long to revive Kansas football. Leipold sped up the timeline. Kansas rocked the world by winning in Texas last season. Although it was a 2-10 campaign, it felt like progress. Since Leipold’s arrival in April 2021, the Jayhawks have added 31 transfers.
The $3.5 million Leipold will earn in the final year of his contract (2027) doesn’t seem like much of a hurdle for an interested fan.
Even obtaining representation was not considered an urgent need. For many years at Whitewater he worked on a one-year contract. Leipold quietly hired his current agent. It was many years ago that Leipold decided that his career was becoming successful enough to warrant representation.
“Something started to happen. We talked on the phone,” Leipold said. “We had enough common ties. There was trust.”
Everything has become much more difficult. Not between Leipold and his agent Brian Harlan, but between Leipold and the college football world. The 58-year-old coach has achieved a lot, including becoming the fastest in NCAA history to reach 100 wins. But little prepared him to accidentally become the coach’s next top model.
Goff was the Associate Director of Advertising at Northwestern when Harlan was negotiating a 10-year contract with Pat Fitzgerald in January 2021. No one is saying that Leipold hasn’t received a 10-year contract yet, but all parties at KU are feeling comfortable. in keeping it for a long time.
The chatter will definitely not subside. Former players from Kansas flocked to the city on Saturday to witness the change. Former running record holder Tony Sands was the first to shake hands with the coach at a private charity event after the game. Sands held the NCAA singles rush record for eight years (391 yards), setting it in 1991 at KU. (Playing for Leipold in 2020, Buffalo’s Jareth Patterson dropped a record – since surpassed – 409 yards against Kent State.)
Leipold and Kotelnitsky do not profess a single offensive philosophy. There are gun concepts, but the ball seems to fly everywhere. Fourteen players caught the pass and scored as many.
Kansas is tied with Ohio State in total touchdowns this season (27). Quarterback Jalon Daniels threw four touchdowns against Duke for over 400 yards in total offense. Equally valuable was RB backup Daniel Hishow Jr., who contributed 61 yards to assist injured starter Devin Neal.
Kansas Memorial Stadium sold out for the first time since 2009. That year was also a cautionary tale that could travel back in time to the present. These Jayhawks won their first five games, lost their last seven, and saw the sacking of coach Mark Mangino.
“If we give away stuff like this for the next eight weeks in conference games, we won’t win anything,” Leipold said. “We’ll be 4-8 and people will say we’re overconfident or I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”
Iowa State is coming to town this week, adding to the intrigue of finding a coach. Matt Campbell of the Cyclones is said to be interested in reopening Nebraska.
Leipold himself has deep roots in Nebraska. He cherishes his time there as an analyst for Frank Solich and Nebraska, and as an assistant in Division II Nebraska-Omaha. He is bothered by outside distractions that Whitewater never had.
Nebraska is better resourced than Kansas and participates in a bigger and richer conference, and…well…what else do you need to know? Asked about the opening twice last week, Leipold said he wants to see what turns out to be a surprising twist. Despite only being on campus for 18 months, Leipold put the Jayhawks at the threshold of the national rankings for the first time in 13 years. (Kansas is already #23 on CBS Sports 131.)
Confidence in Nebraska needs Leipold’s firm hand and ability to develop. None other than Duke’s aide Private Taylor – an SEC recruiting legend – went out of his way to congratulate Leipold on his win after the game.
“This place has been starving for so long,” Leipold said. “I thought, ‘We can’t [mess this up].'”