KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Lance Leipold will be the next Kansas football coach, KU announced Friday morning.
He replaces Les Miles, who mutually parted ways with the school on March 8 after sexual harassment allegations during his tenure at LSU became public. Emmett Jones had been serving as interim coach through spring practices.
Leipold, 56, signed a six-year contract with KU, according to the school’s release. Other financial information was not immediately available.
“It is an exciting and humbling opportunity, and this is a day I will never forget,” Leipold said in a release. “We are going to build this program through developing players, discipline and determination. The philosophies ingrained in our programs along the way will be key as we turn this around. This is a program that has a lot of young talent on the roster and has the infrastructure in place to succeed. The best days for this program are ahead, and my family and I are ecstatic to be a part of it.”
Leipold (pronounced LIE-pold) comes to KU after going 37-33 in six seasons at Buffalo — a mark is even more impressive considering the Bulls’ trajectory prior to his hiring.
After going to just two bowl games between 2000 and 2014, Buffalo has gone to three straight under Leipold from 2018-20. Leipold went 5-7 and 2-10 in his first two seasons, but since then, he has won at least six games for four straight years, which includes a 10-win campaign in 2018 and a 6-1 record in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
The Bulls also picked up their first national ranking in school history this past year.
“He is a man of integrity, a developer of young men, a program builder and a winner,” KU athletic director Travis Goff said of Leipold. “His track record of sustained excellence is exactly what we were looking for in our next leader, and is what the University of Kansas and our fans deserve.”
Progress showed up in advanced stats as well. The year before Leipold took over at Buffalo — in 2014 — the Bulls ranked 95th in Bill Connelly’s tempo- and opponent-adjusted SP+ rankings. Leipold oversaw the program as that number improved to 82nd in 2018, 71st in 2019 and 48th in 2020.
To compare, KU has not ranked better than 100th in those same rankings in any year since 2014.
Leipold was a big winner before Buffalo as well. He began his head coaching career at Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, going 100-6 over his first 106 games. That was the fewest games any college football coach has needed to get to 100 wins in his career, beating the previous mark set by Cornell’s Gil Dobie in 1921 (108 games).
In eight seasons, Leipold went 109-6 overall at his alma mater, leading the Warhawks to six national championships.
KU’s move marks what could be the biggest decision of new AD Goff’s tenure less than a month after he was hired by KU Athletics on April 5.
During his introductory news conference, Goff spoke only in vague terms about the football coaching position, refusing to give a timeline for a decision while saying he was coming in “open-minded.” A week later, he wrote in an email to donors that he was opening up a national coaching search in order to fill the vacancy.
Army’s Jeff Monken, Louisiana Tech’s Skip Holtz and Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko also were involved in KU’s search.
Earlier this offseason, Leipold was one of the finalists for Illinois’ coaching vacancy, with Sports Illustrated reporting then that he met with Illini AD Josh Whitman in Buffalo for an in-person interview. Illinois instead went with Bret Bielema, who previously coached at both Wisconsin and Arkansas.
Football Scoop also reported that Leipold was interested in Vanderbilt’s open coaching position in December before the Commodores hired Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea.
KU is coming off an 0-9 season, though Miles received high marks for his last two recruiting classes, which were comprised entirely of high school players.