UB Athletic Director Mark Alnutt said in a press conference Friday that the program is looking to hire a new head football coach within the next two weeks, after Lance Leipold left for the same position at the University of Kansas.
In a Zoom call with members of the local media Friday afternoon, Alnutt said he anticipated the possibility of Leipold heading to the midwest to coach the Jayhawks.
“From [the beginning of] this entire process, we were aware that this was a definite possibility,” Alnutt said. “When that action occurred in Kansas [the firing of Les Miles] a month and a half ago, I knew that he was going to be a highly sought after candidate and I was very supportive of him wanting to explore this opportunity.”
Alnutt says he doesn’t want to rush the program’s head coaching search, but he also acknowledged the urgency of the matter.
Kansas hired Leipold late in the offseason, which puts UB in a difficult spot. The Bulls have already completed spring practices, and a new coach needs to get acclimated to the new situation, meet the players and install a system.
Alnutt says he wants to hire a new head coach before the players go home after finals week, which ends on May 15.
“From a timeline standpoint, we’re not going to rush this just to rush this, but also on the same token for me personally, there’s urgency because this semester is coming to an end,” Alnutt said. “I want to be in a position to hopefully secure a head coach prior to them going home after finals, which is about a two week timeframe here when finals are over.”
UB is facing the formidable challenge of conducting interviews and hiring a strong candidate in the next two weeks. Alnutt says he is looking for the Bulls’ next head coach to check off certain criteria.
“When I talk about fit, I want someone that is a proven winner, someone that does it right, both on and off the field,” Alnutt said. “Someone that understands the unique dynamics of being a student-athlete in this day and age and everything that’s associated with that. I want someone who understands Buffalo.”
With Leipold’s departure coming so late in the game, Alnutt says UB will look to hire a head coach with similar coaching principles and philosophies. Considering the members of the Bulls’ roster are all players Leipold recruited for his system, UB’s next coach will have to implement schemes that best utilize the current roster.
“You can’t deviate too much from what you have on your roster at this point in time,” Alnutt said. “For me it’s one of those situations where you bring in a head coach, but also understanding that person has to understand the pieces that we already have in place. Whatever scheme that he brings with him is gonna have to maximize based on our personnel. So I don’t see us deviating from what we were.”
While it seems UB doesn’t want to go too far out of the box with its next head coach, Alnutt referenced the Bulls’ high-powered 2018 passing game that was headlined by Tyree Jackson, Anthony Johnson and K.J. Osborne. Leipold’s ability to evolve with the game and mold plans that best fit his personnel are traits Alnutt wants in the team’s next head coach.
“Any good candidate will understand that and we’ll have a chance to evaluate the roster and be able to put forth what scheme they feel is best for Buffalo,” Alnutt said.
Similar to the process that went into the hire of men’s basketball coach Jim Whitsell following Nate Oats’ departure for Alabama, Alnutt says UB will use a search firm to narrow the requirements of the program and provide appropriate background checks on candidates.
Alnutt’s experience searching for a new men’s basketball coach in 2019 will serve as a reference point for UB as it looks for Leipold’s successor.
“When we did the basketball search, we tried to find someone that wanted to be here in Buffalo, which I felt we did,” Alnutt said. “So that’s where we are and I look forward to this opportunity, it’s definitely not a challenge, it’s an opportunity for us here at UB.”
Alnutt says UB will launch a national search but also give internal candidates the opportunity to interview for the vacancy.
Associate head coach Rob Ianello will serve as interim head coach until a new coach fills Leipold’s vacancy. In the seemingly unlikely event UB decides to go with Ianello, the 55-year-old is a qualified assistant with previous head coaching experience.
Ianello served as Akron’s head coach from 2010 to 2011, but was dismissed after accumulating a 2-22 record with the Zips. He also has experience as an assistant with Alabama, Wisconsin, Arizona, Notre Dame and Kansas. In five seasons as Notre Dame’s recruiting coordinator, Ianello hauled in three consecutive top-10 recruiting classes from 2006 to 2008 and was named one of the top-25 recruiters in the country from 2005 to 2009 by Rivals.com.
Alnutt and the athletic department will need to act swiftly if a decision is to be made within the next two weeks.
“I truly believe that we’re still in position to be an outstanding program, not just this year, but future years to come,” Alnutt said. “We’ve begun a national search and we’re gonna cast a very wide net as we move forward.”
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found playing video games, watching ‘90s Knicks games and arguing with people on NBA Twitter at 3 a.m.