It’s been a while since the first edition of our favorite gameshow, “Who wants to coach KU football this year?” That said, there are a LOT of rumors swirling around on the Twitters (and surely other social media) regarding the head football coaching search at Kansas, so on the day of the new Athletic Director’s introduction, I thought it might be prudent to talk about what we’ve been seeing.
It looks like we can start narrowing down that aforementioned list a bit now. From what I can tell, there are three primary names outside of the current staff who have indicated to “sources” that they are interested in the job. We’ll get to those, but first, let’s go over who’s in the office now.
First of all, it is important to note that there might not be a coaching change. Emmett Jones was named the interim coach back on March 11 by then-interim AD Kurt Watson. Spring practice started on March 30, and logically, it would seem difficult to integrate a new head coach into the program during spring practice, which runs through the Spring Game currently scheduled for May 1.
Obviously, the newly appointed AD, Travis Goff, will have to meet with Jones and properly interview him to determine whether or not to remove the interim tag. You can peruse Jones’ resume at your convenience, but what’s notable is that this is his first head coaching opportunity above the high school level. Additionally, he does not have any D1 coordinating experience either.
However, Jones is known as an excellent recruiter due to his ties to Texas high school football, and he is immensely popular with players, nearly two dozen of whom immediately went to Twitter after Goff’s hiring was announced to publicly support Jones.
Lance Leipold, Buffalo HC
From what I’ve seen, Leipold has been the most talked about on social media, and it has been said by various folks who should be “in the know” that Leipold has interest in Kansas. His buyout appears to be $600K.
Leipold has been the head coach at Buffalo since 2015. After going 7-17 in his first two seasons, he has gone 30-16 in the last four seasons, all bowl-eligible campaigns. Versatility seems to be his strength. For example, in 2018, the Bulls won 10 games and led the MAC in passing. The following season, they won 8 games and led the MAC in rushing. Additionally, the Bulls have had 35 all-conference players in the last three years. (For comparison, Kansas has had seven in the same time frame; none in 2020.)
Before you freak out, this is no Turner Gill. Prior to Buffalo, Leipold was the head coach at D3 Wisconsin-Whitewater for 8 years. He coached in seven national title games, won six of them, and had five (5!) perfect 15-0 seasons.
Jeff Monken, Army HC
Monken also reportedly has interest in the Kansas job, which can be allegedly confirmed (see what I did there?) by the report that KU is one of the schools to which Monken can leave Army without a buyout. However, details on his contract are, shall we say, elusive.
Monken went 38-16 at Georgia Southern over four seasons before going to Army prior to the 2014 campaign. His overhaul at Army has been impressive. His first two seasons saw just a combined 6-18 record, but since then he has gone 43-11 over the last five years, including a 3-1 bowl record. His three bowl wins are the most by any Army head coach.
Willie Fritz, Tulane HC
Fritz still appears to be the frontrunner out of all of them, however. His buyout is not available as Tulane is a private university, but prior to his 2020 contract extension, his salary was reported as $1.6M per year. So, we could be looking at a decent chuck of change here, barring a clause reducing or eliminating any buyout should he take the KU job.
Fritz has been at Tulane since 2016. After going 9-15 in his first two seasons, the last three seasons have all seen bowl games with a 20-18 record, plus 2-1 in bowl games. Fun fact: Fritz is 3-0 vs Monken and Army while at Tulane.
Prior to Tulane, Fritz was 17-7 in two seasons at Georgia Southern, 40-15 in four seasons at Sam Houston State, and 97-47 in 13 seasons at D2 Central Missouri. While at Sam Houston, Fritz made two FCS championship game appearances.
He is originally from Shawnee in the Kansas City area, and played college ball at Pitt State. His brother, Ed, is the head basketball coach at Blue Valley Northwest, and by at least one report is friendly with Bill Self (not that that should matter for the KU football coaching job, but let’s be honest, it probably does).
Others to Consider
Odds are strong that the next KU football coach will be one of Jones, Leipold, Monken, or Fritz. To kind of borrow Matt Tait’s percentage wheel, I’d say there’s a greater than 90% chance it will be one of those four guys. Which one of those four depends on who you talk to, although it really sounds like one of the three outside guys - Leipold, Monken, Fritz - is the most likely outcome.
However, while I have not seen the guys on the list below publicly linked to KU - or even rumored to be interested - I still think they are people who should be preliminarily vetted - i.e., at the very least, call their agents and gauge their interest. I’m hopeful the newly appointed AD, Travis Goff, has a similar list.
Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan HC
Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina HC
Tom Herman, Chicago Bears OA
Kevin Kane, Illinois AHC
Brian Bohannon, Kennesaw State HC
Jay Norvell, Nevada HC
Dan Lanning, Georgia DC
Sean Lewis, Kent State HC
Billy Napier, Louisiana HC