The Clash of Dreams and Reality
A new opportunity for the University of Kansas football coach Lance Leipold hasn’t changed the man underneath—the one with the deep-seated belief that it’s a coach’s responsibility to leave a program better than when he found it.
As he sat comfortably in the chair of his new office after a career-defining day that will be engrained in his memory forever, you could spot the fire burning through the eyes of a man that has a tendency of speaking success into existence.
It’s the same fire that has burned within him ever since he decided to take up coaching under the stars in the dormitory of a football camp many, many years ago.
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He was just lending a helping hand for a little extra money after finishing his football career at Wisconsin-Whitewater and earning his college degree. His initial hope was to land a job in law enforcement, but those state exams were tough to crack and had him looking elsewhere.
That’s when the summer football camps came up.
“I needed something to do and make a little money, so I started working summer football camps,” said Leipold. “[I remember] walking back to the dormitories where we were all staying at, and one of the coaches running the camp told me he had received a lot of compliments about me. I went to bed that night and was kind of looking for direction in what I was doing. Then I thought, ‘I’m getting compliments, and people think I’m kind of good at it. And I’m really kind of liking it. Maybe I should look a little more into [coaching].'”
Not long after the summer football camp, Leipold was offered an opportunity by his former head coach at Wisconsin-Whitewater to come on and help out during the fall training camp, and the rest was history.
Improving Every Day
He hasn’t stopped since.
“[My favorite part] about coaching is watching people improve,”
“Improve from the first day they walk into the door and the maturity they leave with. Just improving on the field and as a person. I think that gets lost sometimes. It’s just about being better today than you were yesterday in some facet of what you’re doing. When you just ask to be a little bit better and challenge yourself to standards that maybe you don’t realize you can even reach, the sky really is the limit.”
Clearly, Leipold is a man of his word. At Buffalo, the Bulls went 7-17 in the coach’s first two years, before going 30-16 over his final four, displaying his burning desire for improvement.
He has carried that philosophy throughout his entire coaching career.
When he arrived at Wisconsin-Whitewater in 2007, his dream was to bring an NCAA Division III championship to the Warhawks. During his seven years with the program, he won six national titles and forged the program into a perennial contender.
Then eight years later, he touched down at the University of Buffalo with the hopes of taking the Bulls’ football program to heights unseen. In his final season, the Bulls cracked the AP Top-25 college football rankings for the first time in program history.
At Monday’s press conference, he talked about the meshing of dreams and reality into an opportunity to finally coach a Power Five team, but he also never shied away from the looming expectations at Kansas.
“The goal is to win championships, pure and simple—one day at a time,” Leipold said. “Become a consistent winner, pay attention to detail—do it with great energy, passion, and effort. It’s not overly complicated, and it’s going to take some work. We’ve started some of those processes now, and we’ll continue as soon as we complete this press conference today.”