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What to make of Kansas football coach Lance Leipold's name surfacing in connection with the now-open Nebraska job

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold paces up the sideline during the fourth quarter on Friday, Sept. 2, 2022 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold paces up the sideline during the fourth quarter on Friday, Sept. 2, 2022 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Long before Nebraska fired head coach and former favorite son Scott Frost as its football coach on Sunday, there were whispers about Kansas coach Lance Leipold potentially becoming a candidate there if the Huskers’ job came open.

Now that Frost is out, those whispers have reached a fully audible level.

Mere minutes after the news broke that Frost was out, multiple national college football writers included Leipold’s name on their initial lists of Frost replacements.

There’s a long way to go before this is all settled, and Nebraska will play out the rest of the season with an interim head coach leading the way.

But their search will begin immediately, and it’s not crazy to think that Leipold will be involved at some point.

Here’s a quick look at three reasons why Kansas fans should be worried about that and three more reasons why they shouldn’t.

Reasons to worry

• Money, money, money

Nebraska is tired of losing and tired of being a laughing stock. Those folks still believe that a return to the glory days is possible. Whether it is or not is a whole other matter, but it sounds like they’re prepared to pay whatever it takes to try to make that happen. Beyond that, Nebraska is already in the Big Ten, where ridiculous TV money awaits. Forget about his salary for a minute. It’s that other part of the equation that opens the door to all kinds of things that have proven to be tough at KU — facilities upgrades, NIL opportunities and more. A significant raise and the keys to the kingdom would be tough to pass up.

• Leipold’s ties to the program and state

As you probably know, Leipold has been at Nebraska before. He was an assistant there from 2001 to 2003 and the Cornhuskers went 28-12 during those three seasons, so he knows what it looks like to win there. He also coached at Nebraska-Omaha from 1994-2000 and again from 2004-06 and his wife, Kelly, is from Omaha.

• His program builder reputation

There will be bigger names on the Cornhuskers’ potential list of candidates, but few of them will have the proven track record of building programs like Leipold. And let’s face it; regardless of what Nebraska fans want to believe, that program is in desperate need of a complete rebuild right now. Whether you’re talking about what he did at Wisconsin-Whitewater or Buffalo before now or the fact that he has injected life into the left-for-dead Kansas program, Leipold’s process and the results it has produced have to be awfully attractive to anyone watching.

Reasons to relax

• Nebraska might not even want him

First things first here. In order for Leipold to even entertain the idea of leaving Kansas for Nebraska, the powers that be to the north have to make the decision that he’s the guy they want. While I do believe he’ll be looked at seriously, I’m not sure that he’ll wind up being their first choice. Leipold’s already 58 and, while that’s not exactly old, the Nebraska folks may desire a younger coach to attack the massive task of trying to restore the once-proud NU program. Beyond that, there almost certainly will be several sexier names in the pool of candidates who show interest in the job, and the Nebraska donors, which have already proven willing to help the Huskers get out from the mess that was Scott Frost, may want to see NU make a much flashier hire. Selling that fan base on hiring the Kansas coach would not be an easy task, no matter how well the Jayhawks do this season or how promising the future looks.

• Leipold is under contract and Kansas wants him here

KU AD Travis Goff already has shown his desire to keep Leipold in Lawrence long term. The first gesture to that end came with the initial contract, a 6-year, $16.5 million deal that showed a strong commitment right out of the gate. The second came recently, when it was announced that Kansas added a year to Leipold’s contract, keeping him tied to KU through the 2027 season. While contracts include buyouts and people can always find a way to make something work, the fact that Leipold currently has a job to do and has his focused tied almost entirely to that could help Kansas out here. Some of the coaches on the early Nebraska lists that have surfaced are unemployed or in smaller roles as assistants and they may have more time and motivation to go after the job than Leipold does or can at the moment.

• The buyout language

We’ve seen plenty of times in the past that there’s always a way out of contract clauses concerning buyouts when coaches want to leave. But if it gets to that point with Leipold, it certainly won’t be cheap. Per the terms of his original contract, if Leipold were to leave KU for Nebraska (or any other college football program) he would owe the university $5 million. If, somehow, he were to delay his departure until Jan. 1, 2023, that number would drop to $4 million. But I can’t imagine Nebraska waiting that long to make a hire for anyone. And while buyout money might not be a total obstacle, it probably stacks the deck against Leipold a little. After all, he’d either be forfeiting roughly every penny he made in his 2 years at Kansas or he’d be asking NU to pay 25% of the $16 million buyout they already paid to get rid of Frost just to get Leipold.

If you asked me to make the call today whether I think Leipold will be the coach at Kansas or the coach at Nebraska for the 2023 season, I’d pick Kansas.

But those KU fans who don’t think him leaving is even a possibility probably need to take a deep breath and prepare themselves for the fact that things could play out differently than they think, hope or want.

Time will tell.

by Pete Thamel

by Bruce Feldman

by Adam Rittenberg

Comments

Joey Meyer

I really hope that KUAD and our fan base recognizes what we have here with LL and makes his situation here that much better. Money/support/stadium/realistic expectations. Whatever it takes, it is truly a great thing to see Kansas Football getting back where we can be.

I hope that Coach Leipold chooses to got all in on KU so we can get him a statue outside our new stadium someday.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Joey Meyer

go* all in

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Chris Bailey

Hey everyone, we just won a big one yesterday! Look there son, over there, someone just $hit on our win!

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Benny Armstrong

I won't be foolish enough to act like the KU job is on par with Nebraska even in its current state so I couldn't blame LL for being curious or interested in the opportunity if they approached him.

That being said, I wonder how much he or other currently employed coaches would seriously consider the position given the unrealistic expectations of the fans and the school. Speaking only of KU, I think we have pretty realistic expectations about the current state of the program and the goal to make a bowl around year 4 at the rate we're progressing. By contrast, Nebraska has made it a practice of running off successful coaches that were winning 10 games a season but not challenging for BCS or national titles. They seem to be trapped in this belief that it is still the 90s and that they're a national power that can command elite coaches and talent, but the game has changed and they can't win at that level with the players in their area. So while I realize that each of these coaches has a healthy ego and belief that they can be the guy to turn things around, I don't know why you'd leave a stable situation to potentially be run out of town after a few seasons.

With the win last night, hopefully the fans show up and are loud for the Duke game and for the rest of the home slate this year to help support the team and the staff. That'll help us win games and keep LL here long term.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Randy Bombardier

There's no reason to think Coach Leipold would leave. He has integrity and won't just drop his players, those he has recruited, not mention moving his family again this soon. Some people think money makes the world go round. I disagree and I think Coach does too. I think he would also agree to leave so soon would just be wrong. Don't listen to this. This is just people in Ames and Manhattan are actually hoping its not their coach who takes the job.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Dirk Medema

After watching Frost go from 13-0 to losing at an epic rate, it is hard for me to imagine anyone leaving a good situation for Lincoln. KU hasn’t been good for a long time, but Coach Leipold and staff are making it that way a lot more everyday. It is the culture they’ve been talking about since day one.

It would seem that the staff factor could play into the equation as well. It’s likely not just a matter of relocating his family but of relocating the families of all his staff members.

They definitely need a culture rebuild because they have been getting recruits far better than their record, though I’m not sure it would be good enough for the fans even if they played up to their rankings.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Rodney Crain

If NE offers him 5m/yr and lets him bring his staff and players, he should do it. He would be missed, but think about all that job offers -

- Loyal fanbase, big crowds

- A rich tradition of college football he can restore.

- Very nice stadium and all the things a first level program offers

- Great boosters, strong fund raising. All he has to do is ask, he will get it

- The B10, a top 2 conference with a savvy commissioner and a $100m a year media deal already in place

- He will be visiting some bucket list type Football Cathedrals to play in.

- Prime Time games in big media markets

- A perfect fit for his style of play. A solid AD and a Chancellor to work for.

- A small town feel coaching in a great conference.

He has to take that job. He would be a perfect coach to rebuild that program.

It would gut us, but there is barely anything we offer that compares to Nebraska.

A $5 mil. buyout is a rounding error to the Huskers. They could setup his contract to cover that with no issues.

NE can't miss on their next hire, it has to be right. Coach L would give them space for a few years as he rebuilds their program. A known or big name will be expected to win quickly.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Joey Meyer

For $5M a year?

Wouldn't it be worth it to US to keep him at $5M a year? Fans back - football revenue up. If they came with $10M - yeah - but $5M?

I talk about these amounts like I know what they are. I don't, but still.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Brian Wilson

Leipold contract $16m in 6 years - already more than $2m per year....wouldn't 4 million be close enough to put a stop to this. It's been 15+years since I last saw a game at Nebraska. Nebraska facilities are really good but nothing that special. KU certainly can meet that standard if just looking at facilities construction . I also certainly like Lawrence better than Lincoln. Like all conferences to me the Big 10 has as much downside as upside but i must say I guess its pretty nice to be highly paid while in the bottom tier of the conference because that is where Nebraska has been the past two years.

2 weeks, 3 days ago

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Doug Cramer

Not a chance he leaves. Leaving after two seasons wouldn’t settle well with his conscious, especially with how methodical he is in developing a culture and developing his players.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Ryan Mullen

Integrity? That word does not exist in College sports. Even Nancy Pelosi or Joe Biden would stay, and they have the most integrity of anyone I know.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Bryce Landon

You're an idiot if you think Pelosi or Biden have integrity. Biden is the most corrupt President this country has ever had, and that's saying a lot considering how corrupt Nixon and Clinton were!

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Rae Bricil

yeah corruption only exists on one side--you nailed it!

i mean the only reason the saudi's gave Kushner $2B is bc of the excellent business acumen and the bailout of his failed 666 business investment?? ( i know the laptop). And stealing classified nuc docs compared to an email(s)....but, but, but....

they all take advantage of the system and almost all of them are corrupt but please keep pushing a false one sided lie--it's good for the status quo.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Jonathan Allison

good troll.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Rodney Crain

Politics Again???

On this topic???

I am almost Quasi upset about this.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Brett McCabe

The bad thing about this is, that the better we do this year, the better chance that he'll be a legitimate candidate. But let's say something crazy happens this year.....KU wins 6 games and becomes bowl eligible (I'm not predicting this, it's just a scenario)......and NU comes calling. I think that Leipold takes the job, and I wouldn't blame him. If Lance Leipold has a miracle season at KU and gets hired at NU as a result, I'll shake his hand, say THANK YOU, and wish him well in Lincoln. He would have accomplished more than our last four coaches combined.

But there would be some good news, our job would look much, much better to other candidates. A ton of the heavy lifting would have already been done. And since KU fans have finally embraced the most beautiful offense in all of football - the option - then Jeff Monken, who Goff has already interviewed, would still be available.

Now, let's say KU has a really good season (for KU) and wins 4 games. I'm not sure you can sell that to the NU fan base, even if it is legitimate progress towards a turn around, and would far exceed oddsmaker projections.

In terms of the list of other candidates, I'm not sure that I see a lot of "sexy" in there. If I'm NU, I'm probably all-in on Campbell or Klieman. I don't think Aranda leaves Baylor for Nebraska. I think he knows that he can get a better job than that with a year or two more of success in Waco, if he in fact wants to leave. Bo Pellini consistently won 9 or 10 games a year in Lincoln, so I think it is still doable there. But I think that they need a grinder, and I think they need someone who comes with a staff. Having watched the last three hires at KU come in with ZERO staff, I've seen how it can really slow-down and even sidetrack the process. The good news? This all settles down by the end of the week and we won't have to think about it again till late October.

RCJHK!

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Rodney Crain

Northwestern was able to hire a past player who was a local kid and a good coach. He stays cause he is paid well, his extended family is near and he likes it where he is. He has played in one or two B10 championship games, won his division 4/5 times too.

Not sure who this would be, but it would help us keep a coach who is rising.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Andy Godwin

Money would not be an issue - "he would owe the university $5 million. If, somehow, he were to delay his departure until Jan. 1, 2023, that number would drop to $4 million". As I understand Frost had a $15 million buyout. If Nebraska had waited until October 1st to fire Frost, they would have saved $7.5 millions. NU go elsewhere for your next coach. We like Coach Leipold and his staff (even before the WVU win). Rock Chalk.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Jim Stauffer

I would cross the following names off that list.
Stoops, Aranda and Pittman.
Those guys are either too entrenched where they are or too loyal to the AD's that hired them.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Michael Maris

If Coach Leipold is truly a candidate for the Cornhusker HC position, Coach Leipold will make the decision that he feels is the right decision for his family.

What that "potential scenario" decision will be going forward, I don't know.

BUT, I hope his family decision is to remain in Lawrence, KS. and continue to build upon the Jayhawk Family foundation his staff and Coach Leipold are currently working on (in his Jayhawk Life Chapter).

#RockChalk

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Doug Roberts

On that list of coaches I think Aranda and Campbell are the sexier hires. They're younger and Campbell has proven he can recruit and have success in flyover country. I think we're safe, but crossing my fingers anyway.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Doug Roberts

Also, I think Leipold will come out soon and remove his name from the list.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Robert Brock

NU needs to make a lead-pipe cinch hire after their recent hiring mistakes. NU had better be searching way up the food chain - like Urban Meyer, for example - or the Husker donors will be demanding that the AD join Frost on the unemployment line.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Waylon Cook

Rhule should be their target. He will likely be free soon too, he could get to work quick.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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W Keith Swinehart II

Of course his name is on the list. Reasons to worry are valid, as are the reasons for him to stick with Kansas.

Biggest issues: 1) Money. Always big, but usually controllable. 2) Ties to Nebraska: Uncontrollable. Think Roy Williams.

I choose to relax. He's been here only A short time and is already A beloved figure in Lawrence. I would be surprised and disappointed if he chose to leave if he should be selected as the guy Nebraska wants to hire. But I think he really enjoys what he is doing and is having success with it. If the success continues the money will follow. Success is never a guarantee.... even at Nebraska. Think Scott Frost.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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David Robinett

Leipold said in his early press conference that this was not a steppingstone job for him. I don’t think he goes back on his word.

Plus he has got to realize that if he goes eight and three here we build him a statue, but if he goes eight and three at Nebraska he gets fired.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Clarence Haynes

In Portuguese, there is a term, fofoca, which means gossip!

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Brad Watson

I want Coach to stay here for a long time...I like the man as a person and if it would make him and his family happy to move back to the State of Nebraska...I would wish him well....there is no comparison between our 2 football programs...Nebraska is like Notre Dame....Nebraska was the only team to beat "The Four Horsemen" of Notre Dame with Coach Knute Rockne .. back in the 1920's... and they beat them both times they played them...Nebraska has that kind of football history...going back 100 years....Would you go to Nebraska to coach?....I would and I love KU...but if you are a football coach...it is a dream to coach at a place like that...it's not a dream to coach football here...just the brutal truth...so lets get real here.....I support Coach...no matter what he decides!

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Gary Wirsig

Nice comments and history lesson!

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Brian Wilson

In perspective, (Naismith, Allen, Harp, Brown, Williams, and Self) in the 130 year history of KU basketball there have only been 8 coaches where comparatively speaking each game is not as big a part of the winning record or as crucial as in football. KU has been fortunate to hire basketball coaches capable of continuing the winning tradition. But this is football...and Nebraska has had 6 coaches not including interim coaches in just the last 24 years. If you can't win big within 3 to 6 years your fired! Every loss sticks out like a sore thumb. That being said: Would you rather be the Tom Osborne of the program or the guy that follows him?!<br><br>Leipold is in the position to be KU's Osborne and start a winning tradition. At KU he basically follows no one. At Nebraska the coach follows and is being compared to Tom Osborne and will be fired every 4 to 6 years until they find a coach that is as successful as Tom Osborne. Look at the past 24 years of coaching at Nebraska. Records of 6 and 5, 8 and 3, are not good enough. At Nebraska you better have 9+ wins and contend every year or you will become a side note. If I were Leipold I would hate retirement knowing I was fired in less than 4 years for having a winning program that didn't win a National Championship or at least 10 games. Which brings me to...I fear the day that Self retires and we have to find someone to follow him.

2 weeks, 3 days ago

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Dale Rogers

If I were a KSU fan I would be worried. I think Chris Klieman is much more likely to be interested in the Nebraska job. I don't think he sees Manhattan as a destination job but as a stepping stone and Nebraska is a much larger stone than is KSU. He is 54 years old.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Dirk Medema

Clarence - Great bilingual comment!

Ryan - Great comment but make sure to help out the other readers by using the sarcasm font when appropriate. 😉

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Dirk Medema

Understandable obligatory article.
Who will be the first to ask Coach about it at his presser?
Guessing he’ll preempt the question by saying no comment before it is asked, and add that he’s here to talk about KU and the next game against Houston.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Clarence Haynes

Dirk Medema, it’s gossip (Fofoca) because he has won 2 games and there is a lot about him in the media. Also, I don’t think that Coach Leipold would leave for another two years when he could really say that he got the job done. At least this is my hope.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Randy Bombardier

One more thing. Our enemies will gladly make up stuff to hurt our program. You think recruits are hearing their disinformation? Coach absolutely needs to squash this right now.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Jonathan Allison

If coach Leipold is successful at Kansas he will have opportunities to leave for bigger jobs.

Key questions would be:
1. What level of winning at Kansas would qualify him for the top tier of college coaching jobs?
2. Is this an historic opportunity or otherwise is there some driver for mutual interest from LL?
3. If not an historic job or mutual interest, how much money could draw him away from KU?

Nebraska certainly has some history, but their glory days were in the 90s, and it's been a good while since they've really been nationally relevant. Frankly they've been a dumpster fire since before they left the Big 12. They are not the same level as Ohio State or Michigan in terms of appeal. But if LL can get KU to 4-0... he that may be enough for UNL to justify a big enough pay day to pull him away from KU. That said. The relationship with KU and LL is strong right now, and only gets stronger if they get to 4 wins and counting.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Brian Wilson

Well, Just because your in the Big 10 and make a lot of money doesn't mean your better. And, what goes around comes around, HS recruits wanting to be in the limelight, with NIL, in a winning program where they can get some media attention, NFL attention, etc., will eventually eye winning programs in in other conferences while programs at the Big10 and SEC will slowly spiral downward and become even more frequent bottom dwellers. So I say....Have your ever been to Lincoln? It's not on par with Lawrence! I agree Lincoln does have that small town atmosphere. but it also hard not to recognize a place waiting to flounder.

2 weeks, 3 days ago

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Ryan Mullen

Dirk, Its funnier if people don't know what I really think.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Rodney Schulz

Three things:

1). If LL goes to NE after just two years at KU it shows he give a rip about his players and integrity, no matter how much money NE offers him.

2) Just about ALL Americans are sluts for money who don’t give a rip about anyone else but themselves.

3). This coaching saga is another reason NCAA and professional and Olympic sports are NOT WORTH WASTING TIME TO WATCH.

2 weeks ago

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Rodney Schulz

On point 1 above I meant: …after just two years at KU he DOESN’T give a rip about his players and his integrity…

2 weeks ago

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