The day after Kansas’ spring game, new coach Lance Leipold sat down with interim coach Emmett Jones. It was Leipold’s first meeting with a current KU staffer.
“For both of us, there was a lot of uncertainty,” Leipold said. “Is this a fit? Is it not? Who is this guy? But I can tell you, 30 seconds into the conversation, I knew this was a humble man, a great person and someone who wants to be part of the program and get this thing turned around. He was put in a very difficult position and handled it with class.”
KU put Jones in charge of the program temporarily after an unprecedented and sudden upheaval, with coach Les Miles and athletic director Jeff Long being fired in March after a 2013 report was released detailing allegations that Miles had sexually harassed student workers while at LSU. Jones’ stop-gap elevation from wide receivers coach came after several KU players publicly advocated for that move.
By the time Leipold, 57, accepted the Kansas job in late April, he’d already completed spring practices with Buffalo. He spent the previous six seasons with the Bulls, earning MAC Coach of the Year honors twice and leading the program to three consecutive bowl appearances and its first-ever appearance in the AP Top 25.
Before that, Leipold won six Division III national championships in eight seasons at Wisconsin-Whitewater, his alma mater. This is a man accustomed to winning, taking on what is unquestionably the greatest challenge of his career, and perhaps one of the greatest challenges a new head coach has ever faced.
Since 2008, Kansas’ record is 26-115 and its Big 12 record is 7-98. The Jayhawks have finished alone in last place in the conference each year since 2015.
Last season, Kansas allowed 46 points per game — dead last in the FBS — and scored only 15.8 points per game. Leipold is Kansas’ seventh head coach — including interim coaches — since Mark Mangino left in 2009. It’s almost unfathomable that Mangino’s 2007 Jayhawks team finished 12-1, won the Orange Bowl and at one point reached No. 2 in the BCS Standings.