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Why Wisconsin might have just become the biggest threat to the future of Kansas football

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold glances at the game clock during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 at Memorial Stadium. The Jayhawks defeated the Cyclones 14-11 to remain unbeaten.

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold glances at the game clock during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 at Memorial Stadium. The Jayhawks defeated the Cyclones 14-11 to remain unbeaten. by Nick Krug

I know there are a lot of Kansas fans out there who are tired of hearing about the Nebraska job opening and whether Lance Leipold might be a candidate there at some point.

I also know that Leipold, on several occasions now, has said he and his family are happy in Lawrence and plan on being here for a long time.

And while that certainly appears to be true today and might very well wind up staying that way for a long time, the landscape changed in a fairly significant way on Sunday, and, like it or not, we have to take a look.

The Wisconsin coaching job is now open, and, as was the case when the Nebraska job opened up after the firing of Scott Frost last month, Leipold’s name was immediately tossed out as an option for the Badgers in their upcoming search to find a replacement for fired coach Paul Chryst.

Uh oh.

There were (and still are) several reasons that Leipold being linked to the Nebraska job made sense. There are even more reasons he makes sense at Wisconsin.

That, of course, does not mean that he’s gone. But it does mean that this is a situation worth monitoring and it likely will remain that way for the next couple of months.

I haven’t sensed much concern or worry about Leipold leaving Kansas from the powers that be in the KU athletic department during the past few weeks. I think the belief on the inside has always been that they can and will do enough to inspire Leipold to stay right where he is for years to come.

But I suspect this Wisconsin news has at least started to make a few KU administrators a little nervous.

Here are the facts. Leipold is a Wisconsin native — from a town called Jefferson — and he enjoyed an amazing run of success at Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he won six national titles as a head coach and also played quarterback from 1983-86.

He started his coaching career at his alma mater and then went on to spend three years with the Badgers as a graduate assistant from 1991 to 1993.

That all happened a long time ago, of course, but there’s no disputing that Leipold’s Wisconsin roots have always played a huge role in the way he coaches, how he lives his life and how he builds his programs.

One would think that getting the opportunity to coach football at his home state’s flagship school — in the Big Ten Conference, no less — would be awfully appealing to him.

If it is Leipold that Wisconsin chooses to pursue, there will be big dollars involved, both in terms of the salary they offer and the dollar signs dancing in one’s eyes from the school’s status as a part of the Big Ten. That could be hard to beat. And that’s true at Nebraska, as well.

I do think KU would get as creative as possible in order to entice Leipold to stay. A raise would be a given. As many years as Leipold wants on his contract also could be in play. And it would make sense to load up any new contract with all kinds of retention bonuses and achievement compensation, just to sweeten the pot as much as possible.

Beyond that, KU would have to both show and convince Leipold that a serious stadium renovation is coming soon.

Leipold’s current contract with Kansas, which features a $5 million buyout owed to the school if Leipold were to leave, is solid.

Not only was he given a 6-year deal worth a total of $16.5 million when he signed on with the Jayhawks in the spring of 2021, but the school even added a year to his deal — along with more money — before the first game of the current season.

After KU’s red-hot 5-0 start, though, and given what Leipold already has been able to show as a master rebuilder at Kansas, it seems safe to say that KU officials absolutely would be willing to draw up a brand new deal to keep Leipold in town for a long, long time.

The guess here is that KU would like to get a new deal done with Leipold immediately. Yesterday, in fact. Last week even. As soon as humanly possible.

But this is a business we’re talking about, and as much as Leipold is a football coach through and through, he has people around him who are well versed in handling the business demands of being a college football coach. In a situation like this one, where your client is quickly becoming one of the hottest commodities in the sport, it makes the most business sense to wait to make any kind of move.

So that’s likely what will happen.

Leipold will go on coaching up the Jayhawks, trying to avoid these types of distractions and working as hard as possible to deliver more wins to Lawrence and get Kansas back into a bowl game for the first time since the 2008 season.

Meanwhile, the rumor mill will continue to churn, Leipold will remain linked to the Nebraska and Wisconsin jobs and probably will wind up on a few other lists, as well.

None of those other schools should worry Kansas fans. And, at this point, I’m not even all that sure that Nebraska should. But Wisconsin’s a different animal. So those of you who want to keep Leipold in Lawrence would be wise to root like crazy for Wisconsin’s interim head coach, Jim Leonhard, to win big during the next couple of months.

If he does that, it would be incredibly likely for Leonhard to become the top name in the Wisconsin coaching search, perhaps even a lock to get the job. Leonhard played at Wisconsin in the early 2000s, Badger fans already love him and he has been an assistant coach there since 2016.

Fun fact: Leonhard’s name came up briefly during the past two Kansas football coaching searches.

So, there you have the latest version of success bringing a whole other set of problems for the Kansas football program.

For the past 12 or 13 years, it was winning that was the biggest challenge at KU. Now that the winning has returned, it seems that the man behind it has become an awfully popular name in college football coaching circles. Go figure.

If you’re the silver lining type, and you’re looking for one here, it’s that all of the biggest challengers to steal Leipold from KU appear to be surfacing at the same time.

Put another way: If Leipold stays at KU while head coaching jobs were open at both Nebraska and Wisconsin, it likely would mean he’ll be here until he’s done coaching.

Time will tell how all this shakes out. In the meantime, don't forget that No. 19 Kansas will play host to No. 17 TCU at 11 a.m. Saturday, with ESPN's College Gameday in Lawrence for a football game for the first time in history.

A win would make the Jayhawks bowl eligible for the first time since 2008 and keep alive one of the best stories in all of college football this season.

Sheesh. Talk about sensory overload for Kansas football.

by Bruce Feldman

by Stewart Mandel

by Tom Fornelli

by Dan Wolken

Comments

Dirk Medema

I think it was Josh Pate that was commenting on the Wisconsin position. Lance and Leonard were the obvious names, but he also made an interesting observation about the current situation; that in spite of all the B1G $$$, Wiscy really doesn’t invest in the football program. The fans are but not the administration. Could that be part of the reason Bielema left? What caught my ear was he mentioned the fitness staff, nutrition staff, recruiting staff. These have all gotten public kudos from Coach in the past year.

I still say Lance gets a raise, but it won’t be a bidding war. It will be more about raises for the other staff or more staff where needed, and improved facilities. Can’t wait to see what Travis can’t possibly get built.

2 months ago

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Rodney Crain

The quasi part of this?

Goff can get built? Our fundraising guru? How is the NIL thing going by the way? The decision to use debt?

Your right Travis is a wunderkind. He hired Coach L. Since then though, when it is about money, he is nonexistent, I would say over his head! So yeah I think he will not be able to get anything built. Somebody else is going to have help do that. Let's hope goff stays out of their way.

2 months ago

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Dirk Medema

Does it create a bidding war for Campbell?

2 months ago

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Jonathan Allison

Campbell couldn't win at Kansas.

at least not anymore, anyway.

2 months ago

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Benny Armstrong

I think he means between Nebraska and Wisconsin since his name has been on the short list of both schools as well.

2 months ago

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Jonathan Allison

I was making a joke. Why would they want Campbell over Leipold? Leipold can win at Kansas. Campbell lost.

2 months ago

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Benny Armstrong

Apologies! We need that sarcasm font on here.

2 months ago

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Jonathan Allison

no worries, I realize that the delivery could have been improved by just the slightest amount of context... next time

2 months ago

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Rodney Crain

Dirk, please.

2 months ago

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Phil Leister

Lance Leipold could be the co-mayor of Lawrence as long as he wants to. Make multi-millions a year, win bowl games, have a down year or two, and not get fired. He could have job security and eventually achieve a legacy akin to Bill Snyder.

Or, he could make MORE millions at a place like Wisconsin and get fired after going 67-26. Paul Chryst is a Wisconsin native, and was back "home". Same with Frost at Nebraska. They both now have a ridiculous amount of money in their bank accounts and are jobless. The latest in a long, long line of home run hires at a place where success is far from guaranteed but is the constant expectation.

I know which I would choose.

2 months ago

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Rodney Crain

Like a Herschel Walker candidate? Hmmm... Not sure he would want all the headaches.

2 months ago

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Edward Daub

I warned you guys about this earlier this season. Lance is a Green Bay Packer fan. Whitewater is 40 miles from Madison.

I will root for KU first, WIS second, and whoever plays Iowa third.

Rock Chalk!

2 months ago

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Bryce Landon

It's a satisfying feeling knowing that I'm living rent-free in your brain for proclaiming my love for the Hawkeyes.

2 months ago

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Rodney Crain

Does Sports Illustrated still report on sports?

2 months ago

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Bryce Landon

It sure looked like it from the article I just read.

2 months ago

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Rodney Crain

Check out the magazine next time at the store. It is a mess.

2 months ago

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Chris Bailey

No they are falling all over themselves to become as far left as everything else. Much like the "woman" who won the NCAA swimming last year. Really not sure how that's fair. Men competing as women cause they can't cut it in men's sports? Ridiculous. But that's the insane world we live it today.

2 months ago

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Al Martin

And here we go. Another jackass just *has* to inject politics.

2 months ago

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Joey Meyer

Here's a thought to take at least a little solace in - KU is already in a much better position than it was when Lance was hired - due to Lance.

Our #1 prerogative should absolutely be to do everything in our power to make Lance and his family as comfortable as possible and set them up for long-term success at KU. We need to be all-in on this, absolutely.

There are other options as fallback plans. They're not as good as Lance & his family, but they do exist. Would Andy Kotelnicki entertain a head coaching job with good money and a new stadium? Keep the offense alive and the star players in Jayhawk uniforms? That could be a nice option for continuity.

The Wisconsin firing was ruthless considering how successful Paul Chryst has been. But guess what? A quality coach (with a great record) is now back on the market. If we lost Lance and Andy, what about Paul Chryst? What about Gary Patterson? What about Jeff Monken? There are a number of established coaches now, with lots of experience and great records, who could be a unique fit for KU. There are options. Less appealing, of course, but there are options.

I'm still hopeful the administration can put up some kind of lifetime contract that appeals to Lance, his family and his assistants - and we make a great situation here in Lawrence. It might take nebraska and wisconsin wanting other coaches, but I'm hopefull that we can find a way to make it happen.

2 months ago

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Mike Barnhart

Joey is absolutely right. As remarkable as it seems, KU football is fixed! If LL is drawn back home, our next search will include real candidates not has-beens, lunatics and wannabes!

2 months ago

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Jonathan Allison

I can't tell if you are joking. The way I see it is that if KU loses HCLL we are on shaky turf, and potentially only the perfect hire could save us from another 12 years as the worst team in FBS football.

2 months ago

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Chris Bailey

My thoughts exactly. We've won 5 games. We aren't playing for the National Championship and we have not beaten anyone that is that good yet. Maybe we will. Maybe we are that good but time will tell. Right now we are 5-0 but we could go 0-7 to finish. We are still building.

2 months ago

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Benny Armstrong

I think it would be very tough to keep Kotelnicki if Leipold were to leave. Most of Leipold's staff has been together dating back to the Whitewater days and they have a ton of history together, so I'm not sure Kotelnicki would leave him now, but I could be wrong.

2 months ago

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Joey Meyer

I'm sure Buffalo offered OC/DC opportunities to stay, but the opportunity to be HC at Buffalo and a Power 5 school are a little different.

They've stayed together and that's the hallmark of their staff. Power 5 head coach versus top-tier OC? I don't know. But to get an opportunity to start your first head role at a Power 5 school with kids you're familiar with, successful with?

Maybe you're right, but if I'm KU and unfortunate enough to lose out on Leipold, I think you'd do a whole lot of moving' and shaking to keep Kotelnicki (or possibly Brian Borland).

2 months ago

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Rodney Crain

fixed? LOL now that is funny.

2 months ago

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Chris Bailey

Yeah nowhere near fixed. We are better and may win several more games. I don't know how good we are yet. We may be very good. Time will tell but I would in no way say we are fixed. If LL leaves this will be a flash in the pan. We need to keep him here.

2 months ago

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Phil Leister

Paul Chryst is a Madison native and Wisconsin alum. He has spent 33 of his 56 years of life in town as either a kid, a Badgers QB or a UW coach.

He was 67-26 and 43-18 in the Big Ten. He won three B1G West titles and two NY6 bowls. He was a two-time B1G coach of the year.

If that's the bar to clear to maintain your job, I can't, for the life of me, imagine why a coach would want to go there.

2 months ago

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Joey Meyer

Is going somewhere with more resources, more money, but harder to win, with higher expectations, worth it?

If the end result is being fired in 4-5 or -6 years, but having a $20M severance, is that preferred over a continuous job, lower bar, and legendary status?

I don't know the answer to those questions. I'm also biased, so hard for me to say. I agree with your point that expectations for WI are other-worldly. I know CFB head coaches are ultra-competitive, but that is one heckuva bar.

2 months ago

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Dale Rogers

We waited so long, through so many difficult years, to become relevant again. Losing Leipold would not only be devastating, it would be heart-breaking to so many Kansas fans. We have to find a way to keep the Leipold family in Lawrence until ready to retire. If he stays, his name will be held in reverence by so many.

Not only do we need to keep Lance Leipold, Kelly Leipold is such a great ambassador for us, so much a testament to family values and what this family and this team is all about.

Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, forever.

2 months ago

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Dirk Medema

Joey - As mentioned above, some people that are not casual fans have noted that Wiscy football is lacking in resources compared to their competition. They also commented that this is not about the record, what was happening on the field, as much as what was going on behind the scenes.

The latter is also why KU football is only as fixed as Lance is employed. It will all go away if he does. There are also other coaches out there who could be successful at KU, but a lot lot more that would fail.

I’m glad that Lance and Kelly like Lawrence and want to build long term success with the Jayhawks. They know it’s all the little things even if/as $ is a big deal.

2 months ago

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Joey Meyer

"Behind the scenes" is a nice way of saying "we want to get rid of somebody and need a reason to do so." Sorry, but they're not firing a winning coach because of "behind the scenes."

We fired Mangino because he lost seven straight and we (Lou) thought we could do better. The "behind the scenes" was an excuse.

Wisconsin fired their coach because they didn't want their star DC to get hired somewhere else, and THEN fire their coach, and/or possibly lose out on Leipold in the process. I think they felt forced to make that action now, so they either retain their star DC or they go after Leipold.

Paul Chryst is going to get another job, just as Guz Malzahn did. Unreasonable expectations with an achieving coach.

All I'm saying is that because of these crazy firings, there are more opportunities for middle-to-lower-class schools like us to bring them back into coaching.

2 months ago

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Jonathan Allison

the AD Lew Perkins launched an investigation into Mangino when KU was winning, all season we read the slow drip of leaks about how awful Mangino was.

The firing was going to happen regardless of the 7 straight losses, and the investigation was only so that the AD could say that the firing was "for cause" in terms to negotiating the contract buyout.

Mangino was fired because people at KU didn't like him, and they thought that KU football was strong enough that they could do better and football would survive a regime change. They were wrong.

2 months ago

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Joey Meyer

Right. Agreed. We (Lou) thought we could do better.

I get the feeling Wisconsin is in that same boat now. Perhaps they can, perhaps they won't. But they didn't fire because of "behind the scenes" stuff, they fired because they thought they could do better.

2 months ago

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Jonathan Allison

I don't know anything about Wisconsin, but Mangino was fired for behind the scenes stuff. KU thought that they could have their cake and eat it too in regards to the big guy. The calculation was that they could continue on a winning trajectory under a coach who wasn't an a-hole or embarrassing to the AD and chancellor. Thus the drawn out public investigation rather than quickly and quietly delivering disciplinary action and moving on. The investigation was launched when KU was undefeated and ranked. The seven losses were a product of many factors, coaching shortcomings being one of those, injuries another (pretty sure Reesing had a hammy or something), and the distraction of the Mangino investigation being one as well.

2 months ago

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Rodney Crain

It's beautiful in WI Dirk. He knows this too.

It's about the big things as well. At 58 I would guess they have their retirement plans to consider too. Big Money can help upgrade whatever they have planned.

The thing we are missing is what do the other coaches he brought with him think?

2 months ago

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Rodney Crain

Leonhard is the preferred new HC coach at WI. He is local, younger, known, smart, respected, has NFL experience, is a good recruiter, plus he is already there. It would be easier for the current players to transition, and he could be a solid link to recruits who are already signed too.

Any WI fan would be happy if he is the next head coach. Maybe not Brad, but everyone else.

Coach L. fixes broken programs. They are limited if you can be that in the B10, but not broken. I would like to see who Leonhard hires for OC, but other than that it is his job to lose.

2 months ago

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Matt Tait

I agree with most all of that. The only wildcard in it, as it relates to Lance, is the last part. If Leonhard and Wisconsin do not win over the next 8 weeks, it could get very interesting.

If he wins, it should be — and probably will be — him.

2 months ago

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Rodney Crain

He is going to get some leeway, but I agree with you. If he shows progress he is set.

2 months ago

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Dale Rogers

Does LL have family still in Wisconsin? Does Kelly L still have family in Nebraska?

2 months ago

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Rodney Crain

That is going to be way down the checklist I think.

2 months ago

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Phil Leister

David Booth is worth $2B. Make LL the highest paid coach in the NCAA and let's move on from this.

2 months ago

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Joey Meyer

I mean - it's right here in front of us. Right here!

2 months ago

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Rodney Crain

Got to quit ringing that bell.

2 months ago

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Dirk Medema

Joey - I guess “behind the scene” could mean what you were talking about. In this instance it means “fitness staff, nutrition staff, recruiting staff, …” as mentioned previously and referred to in the 2nd post.

Rodney - Like most leaders, Travis knows that he can’t do everything and will get support staff or an outside firm to do much of the actual work. Isn’t that what he did with recruiting and hiring Lance? He’s there to guide the process in the right direction. I must say though that your dissatisfaction with him is very encouraging.

2 months ago

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Rodney Crain

Believe me I am not alone.

He and his staff, do not know what they are doing. Blindless Les Miles Faith in someone who has not measured up lets me know how poorly you understand how weak TG is.

I will always be here to help you Dirk. It is a full time job, but heck if I don't get
you the help you need, nothing will change.

I will always be here rooting you on little one. Some day you will get there. I will be here to pick you up when you stumble, wipe your tears and send you on your way.

2 months ago

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Bryce Landon

It's like everyone in the national media is practically hoping Leipold will leave Kansas! Are programs like Kansas not allowed to have nice things in the media's mind?

2 months ago

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Rodney Crain

Wait till gameday. Second thought don't watch gameday.

2 months ago

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Brett McCabe

Bill Snyder turned down about 1,000 job opportunities because he found the place that he liked. Kansas is now almost exactly where the kitties were then. Maybe we get lucky and Leipold decides to stay and create a legacy here.

If not, another name to keep in mind is Willie Fritz. He's been very good at a place that has traditionally been very bad. And I think he could plug and play pretty well with the current roster and style of play.

Also, just to give you nightmares during Halloween month....if Leipold goes....what happens with Mr. Daniels?

2 months ago

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Brad Watson

Leonhard is another Muschamp IMO...he will show some flashes...too inexperienced for the CEO role.IMO Leipold is more in line with what they want...if hired...he will be urged to keep Leonhard...which might not be a smart move...Leonhard would probably not appreciate not being given the job...so his competitive nature might air its head in a negative way...alphas are like that as we all know and might not be a good fit for the Leipold model...Leonhard first impression to me last night during the PC wasn't good...he looks like a kid...not ready for the big time.. and talking about his love for the school almost makes it hard to get rid of him if they hire Coach...it was a strange moment I thought...moving forward Leonhard will be battling wits the rest of the season with some very good Big 10 coaches ..with the exception of Mickey Joseph who is a complete joke IMO...so he is going to shine or really get schooled...I think the later is more probable IMO....no matter what happens....I am a Leipold fan for life and will follow his career closely wherever he goes and rooting him on...what a great man and as I have said many times in here:
THE BEST COACH IN AMERICA...PERIOD!!!!!!

2 months ago

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Ryan Mullen

I'm surprised my guy Brad Watson hasn't come on here yet saying he would be so happy if Leipold were to get a job at Nebraska or Wisconsin.

2 months ago

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Dale Rogers

You know, the more I think about the kind of people Lance and Kelly Leipold are, the more I just cannot believe they would desert us at this point in the rebuild. They are just not that kind of people. I know, I'm probably being naive, but I just don't think they would go at this point. This point meaning even after the end of this season. Job unfinished.

2 months ago

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Dirk Medema

The SI article is interesting. Said that Chryst was highly successful. He had a winning record, but highly successful? Best of the bottom half of the B1G?

Also interesting that in losing to Illinois, they lost to former Wiscy coach Bret Bielema, who spurned them a decade ago.

2 months ago

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Doug Roberts

Killing two birds with one stone: New concession stand item - cheese curds.

2 months ago

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Matt Lindaman

Maybe, but I live near Badgerland and thus get their radio commentary. The shows I heard were not too keen on Lance with age and him being a rebuilder cited as the cons. Jim Leonard is the odds on favorite with many wanting to look to Matt Campbell as well, especially as it was noted Campbell has deep recruiting inroads in Wisconsin. After Leonard and Campbell, Matt Rule (sp?) was noted as third favorite (I think he would have to be fired from the NFL?). After that, the Washington State coach was fourth favorite as he demonstrated to the boosters what he can do by directly beating Wisconsin. Lance did work three years for Saint Barry though. McIntosh as current AD might want to make his own name and not rely on the previous AD.

2 months ago

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Dirk Medema

Rodney - You are definitely creative. There are plenty of people that would be confused because they don’t realize you live in bizarro world, where losses are celebrated, and you somehow have created a connection between Les Miles and Travis Goff. Bizarro. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if you spent this BB season somehow rating Remy’s defensive breakdowns.

2 months ago

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David Robinett

May Wisconsin suffer the curse of the Mangino / Solich / Gibbs.

Don’t like 43-18? How about 13-48…

2 months ago

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Brad Watson

If you want to do a deep dive into my comment history...my comments from Sept. of 2021 will tell you what I felt at the time and still do...Check them out!

2 months ago

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