For many Bulls fans, the panic button has been pressed. Three years ago, Buffalo Bulls Football was within striking distance of having a chance to win a Mid-American Conference Championship. That team — highlighted by NFL talents Khalil Mack and Branden Oliver — would be one of the best in Bulls football history. Three years later, Buffalo is in much different position.
Since that season that Bulls fans hold close to their hearts, nothing has gone right. A year later, Buffalo would fire the coach who took them to the program’s second-ever bowl bid for understandable reasons midway through the season. Then, former athletic director Danny White made a flash hire—a Division III head coach with an immaculate record.
In two years as a Division I head coach, Lance Leipold hasn’t met expectations. It certainly is obvious that the learning curve is harder than what many thought to make the jump from Division III to Division I FBS football. Leipold already has more than two times the losses at Buffalo than he had at Wisconsin-Whitewater.
After an abysmal 2-10 season, Bulls fans are calling for a firing spree to fix the program. Whether it’s the firing of offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki or all the way to the top job that Leipold resides, people want some kind of accountability.
But for those wanting Leipold out of the Nickel City, many don’t realize an important fact: He’s here for another two years at the very least.
Buried in Leipold’s contract is his buyout and it isn’t what you normally see. Typically you’ll see a buyout that degrades with each passing year on the contract. Leipold’s is a straight buyout though. If the University at Buffalo terminated Lance’s employment today, they would owe him $1,000,000.
A million dollars isn’t pocket change for a mid-major college athletics department. Bulls fans, there is no way Leipold leaves Buffalo anytime soon.
We now have to watch the next couple of years to unfold. However, I will be watching with an open mindset: to see Leipold turn this program around.
It has been less than twenty years since the University at Buffalo has brought all of its sponsored sports back to the Division I level, including football. Since then, Buffalo has seen just two winning seasons for its football program. But, somehow many fans have continued to expect nine and ten win years every preseason as of late.
It isn’t easy to win when so many cards are stacked against you. Before you start throwing examples of the success of conference opponents Western Michigan, Northern Illinois, and Bowling Green my way I will continue to stand by that statement. Buffalo is still one of the hardest coaching jobs in the country. Buffalo also has no real football tradition thanks to the death of the program in the 70’s.
I’m willing to give Lance Leipold more time. Although I have seen a lot of ugly things from this program in the past two years, it has had bright spots. UB’s 41-17 destruction of Ohio last season was one of the most impressive defensive performances I have ever seen. Buffalo’s rout of Akron this season arguably showed that Lance does have what it takes to be a Division I head football coach, but the pieces haven’t fallen into place yet.
One hundred percent of you will still disagree with me after reading the past paragraph and that is fine. But, imagine what kind of a message appears if UB were to fire head coach Lance Leipold today:
- UB fired a coach a year after they went to a bowl.
- That coach’s replacement was fired after only two years, before a full recruiting cycle.
- That coach had one of the most inexperienced teams in the nation in the year he was fired
- The newly fired coach compiled a 109-6 record and six national championships in Division III and couldn’t win games at Buffalo.
I’m sorry, but I would be insane as a prospective coach to take the Buffalo job after that. I’d feel it to be career suicide.
Calling for a head coach’s job after two years will solve nothing and will only make Buffalo a worse program. If you want proof of that, just take a look at the past eight years of Kansas Football—where two of those years had former UB head coach Turner Gill.
I am not impressed with what Lance Leipold has done so far this season. I am not impressed with what happened the season before. But although the feeling is waning, I do believe that football is football. I know that Lance Leipold can coach. You can have the best talent — in which Leipold had at Whitewater — and still lose games because you’re an awful coach. Just look at Kentucky basketball’s John Calipari—he’s not an awful coach, but not an exceptional one either.
I will continue to believe that football is indeed football and watch the development of one of the most inexperienced teams in the nation this year. I refuse to disallow what a Leipold, a Vince Kehres, or even a Rick Willis has done at the Division III level. There will continue to be headaches but I know that Leipold has the ability to turn the program around (we’ll see about the execution of that ability).
Buffalo has this coach for at least another two years. We have to have faith that he knows what he’s doing to put the program in a good spot. If he thinks that a guy like Andy Kotelnicki should remain on staff, we can feel disgruntled but hope that the decision will succeed in the end.
All that left for us to do is trust that Lance Leipold can get the job done.
The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect the opinions of Bull Run and are those solely of the writer.