"High risk, high reward: UB football's new head coach Leipold shows promise"
Time will tell if gutsy decision from Athletic Director Danny White pays off
UB’s new head football coach won’t be leaving his current team behind quite yet – Lance Leipold’s Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks are on a 27-game winning streak in the midst of Division-III playoffs.
“Division-III” might raise some eyebrows – UB is a Division-I school and staunchly proud of it – but Leipold isn’t just any D-III coach.
He was the fastest college football coach to reach 100 wins at any level, and in his eight seasons in Wisconsin coached his team to an impressive 106-6 record.
Considering UB would be thrilled with just breaking .500 – much less earning the 12-0 record held by Leipold’s Warhawks this year – this is an exciting hire.
It’s undoubtedly a bold move by Athletic Director Danny White, and one that strays from his tendency to bring in big-name coaches like basketball coach Bobby Hurley. Although it’s likely that Leipold wasn’t White’s first choice, his record – and his reputation – means more than fame.
White realizes this, and so does the football team.
Junior quarterback Joe Licata and his teammates expressed that they wanted a coach who had prior experience not just as a head coach, but as a player as well – someone who the athletes could relate to.
And just as Licata and his teammates hoped, Leipold has not only earned a winning record and five (maybe soon-to-be six) NCAA D-III National Championships, but he’s also experienced the game from a player’s perspective.
Leipold played for Wisconsin-Whitewater, as a quarterback, from 1983-86, and ultimately returned to lead his alma mater in 2007, after working as an assistant coach at several universities.
Leipold’s history as a head coach and player doesn’t completely mitigate his lack of experience with D-I play. He is making a huge leap, and White is taking a major risk in facilitating that.
But although Leipold lacks experience with recruiting, and noted that some of UB’s players were noticeably bigger and quicker than his current team, his success as a coach – and White’s success in hiring – is encouraging.
It’s noteworthy that Leipold’s commitment to Wisconsin has been unwavering, as he’s rejected several job offers in the past. Only UB was able to draw him away.
That White was able to make an enticing enough offer to snag Leipold is impressive, and Leipold’s willingness to depart from a program with which he has so much history is exciting.
It’s unclear, however, how impressed President Satish Tripathi is with the hiring. When WBFO, Buffalo’s NPR station, asked Tripathi how he felt of Leipold’s hiring after Monday’s press conference he responded with “Talk to Danny” and wouldn’t comment any further, which seemed like a strange response from a university president on what was supposed to be a celebrated day for the entire school.
In a statement emailed to The Spectrum Monday, Tripthi said “I simply felt this was a moment for Athletic Director Danny White and Coach Leipold to have the spotlight.” Tripathi also said he was “very excited that Coach Leipold will be joining the UB family.”
UB doesn’t have a reputation as a football school. We don’t have a history, we don’t have traditions – we rarely show up on ESPN and never make it to national championships.
And yet, Leipold is willing to depart from a team that wins games, wins championships and breaks records. He’s leaving that team, that school – his alma mater – for UB.
But UB’s program shows promise, and the team needs a coach who can see that.
Leipold is that coach according to White. As for Tripathi, maybe he’s waiting to see how it translates on the field.