Buffalo had its home-run hire for six years, and now he’s not there anymore.
Lance Leipold is now the head football coach for Kansas, leaving Buffalo after six years that the fanbase will always hold on to. A Buffalo career record of 37–34 overall, 25–20 in MAC play. Two MAC East banner seasons and three straight years of bowl games. Turner Gill may have actually won a title for the program back in 2008, but I can’t not say that Leipold is the best coach in UB history.
It was a damn home run when UB had the privilege of hiring him in the first place. Jeff Quinn was fired in the middle of the 2014 season after the Bulls got off to a 3–4 start to the year. The final straw was an Oct. 11 road trip to Eastern Michigan when the Eagles came back from down 10–3 at halftime to win 37–27 under first-year head coach Chris Creighton — his first career FBS win. Quinn finished with a 20–36 career record with the Bulls, and even though this team reached a second-place finish in the division in 2013, the trajectory of the program immediately sank in the wrong direction.
Leipold was the hire to force things in the right direction. You’re lucky enough as a lowly MAC school to have somebody be interested in coming to you, let alone that somebody that had just come off his sixth D3 national championship. Leipold’s first two seasons at Buffalo saw five then two wins, but it’s virtually impossible for his 109–6 record to translate so literally at the FBS level. The 2017 season finished with an even 6–6 record, and by that time people knew things were different about this team.
Buffalo hadn’t been to the MAC Championship game since Gill in ’08, and Leipold took this team there twice over the last two years, and the school’s first-ever three-year stretch of bowl game appearances. He raised the competitive floor, not by out-recruiting the rest of the league, but out-developing his players against the field. Go look at how many offers Jaret Patterson had out of high school. Look at Kayode Awoskia’s list. Malcolm Koonce. Antonio Nunn. K.J. Osborn. Tyree Jackson’s offer list is the longest of the bunch, but even then he only had a handful of schools to pick from. These guys helped shape the Buffalo we’re talking about today, and it’s their developments as mostly lightly-offered/lightly-recruited guys as teenagers that have all at least earned opportunities to crack an NFL roster. As far as the school’s concerned, Leipold was able to identify who he needs to bring in to take the football program to new heights.
Buffalo made its dream hire, and now he’s gone. So how do you even replace him at this point? One quick answer is to offer somebody from within (Rob Ianello’s the biggest name, but with a “meh” resume) but you have to wait and see who Leipold’s going to bring over. It’s now May and a lot of job changes have already happened. UB could go back in the non-D1 ranks and see who’s willing to make the jump and the team ready to play in less than four months, but whatever the school decides to do, it can’t afford to delay or shuffle its feet. But no matter who UB ends up hiring, he still won’t be Leipold. And when the school figures it out and we start to cross that bridge: it won’t be fair to compare the next hire’s every move to Leipold’s.