The first game of the Lance Leipold era is almost here as Kansas football welcomes the South Dakota Coyotes to Lawrence on Friday night.
The Jayhawks lead the all-time series against South Dakota 2-0, with the last win coming in 2013 by a score of 31-14. KU hopes to extend that winning record to 3-0 this weekend, and it’s important they do so for a number of reasons.
Kansas has the ninth toughest schedule in the country, according to BetMGM.
With the Big 12 Conference looking challenging from top to bottom and KU playing two of its three non-conference games on the road, the game against South Dakota is easily the most attainable win for the Jayhawks this season.
The Coyotes, an FCS program, finished 1-3 in their COVID-delayed season this spring against fellow FCS opponents. The Coyotes are an extremely young team with 65 freshmen listed on their roster – 20 of whom are true freshmen.
KU is the more experienced team, they’re playing at home, and they need to take advantage of that on Friday because this may be their best (and only) shot at a win this season.
This program has been through a lot these past few years. Some of these players haven’t even experienced a win since they stepped on campus.
On Friday, a win against South Dakota could be a big morale boost for a team, a program, and a fanbase looking for some positive momentum.
Winning can be contagious, and if the players get a win under their belts and start to build more confidence, who knows where that could take them in the weeks ahead.
Starting with a win in game number one under their new head coach could be a big confidence boost for a team and fanbase that desperately needs it.
The Kansas football program needs support from fans now more than ever.
If they start with a loss at home to open the season against an FCS school that went 1-3 a few months ago, that support could dwindle quickly – particularly from students. Not to mention the “here we go again” talk might begin to creep in from fans who have seen this story play out twice in the past six years, with losses to FCS schools Nicholls State and South Dakota State.
After COVID restrictions from last year cost millions of dollars in lost revenue for KU Athletics as a whole, the program needs to sell tickets and keep fans coming back to the stadium.
Winning the first game against an FCS opponent at home is a good first step in that direction.
Realignment talks aren’t going away any time soon for Kansas and the rest of the Big 12 schools not named Oklahoma or Texas.
If Kansas hopes to make themselves an attractive addition to the Big Ten or ACC (should they officially consider expanding), they need to start showing improvement on the football field. That starts by beating teams you are supposed to beat – like South Dakota.
More winning leads to more fan support, and more fan support leads to more revenue and TV/streaming views that KU can use to pitch themselves to these other conferences.
From 2018 to 2019, KU ranked No. 28 in the country in revenue generated among 227 NCAA institutions. That year, KU football went 3-9 and opened the season with a loss to Nicholls State.
That shows KU has the potential to be a top-25 or top-20 school on that list if the football program gets going.
Those dollars can help fund a new or updated stadium – which will also be critical for joining another top conference – and can help retain Leipold and his staff, who will expect to be compensated if they turn this into a competitive program again.
The conference realignment timeline for KU is uncertain, but the better the football program looks, the better their chances are to join a top conference if and when the time comes.
In both the near and distant future, the Jayhawks have a lot to gain from a win on Friday night.