Early evaluations of Kansas Athletic Director Travis Goff’s coaching hires

Kansas athletic director Travis Goff, right, chats with head football caoch Lance Leipold during practice Tuesday morning in Lawrence.
Kansas athletic director Travis Goff, right, chats with head football caoch Lance Leipold during practice Tuesday morning in Lawrence. /
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Lance Leipold (Kansas football)

Goff’s first – and most important – hire thus far as athletic director at the University of Kansas came right out of the gate when he hired Lance Leipold in April 2021.

The hire was heralded by most college football pundits due to Leipold’s track record of well-disciplined players, winning, and his demonstrated ability to turn around the Buffalo football program.

The six-time national champion remains the fastest coach in NCAA history to reach 100 wins, and his steady, winning hand is just what this Kansas football program needed.

Although the record didn’t reflect it (2-10), Leipold’s coaching prowess shined through in his first season as head coach of the Jayhawks. The team made several strides towards the end of the season and even knocked off Texas in Austin for the first time in program history.

At the time, it was also (incredibly) the first Big 12 road win for KU in 13 years – a statistic that Kansas fans were very glad to get off their back.

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In Leipold’s second year is when the country really started to take notice of how special KU’s head coach really is.

He led the Jayhawks to their first 5-0 start since 2009 and had the team ranked in the top 25 for the first time in nearly 13 years as well. Then, KU football hosted ESPN’s College GameDay for the first time in program history in October 2022 against TCU.

Despite losing Jalon Daniels for several weeks due to an injury suffered in the game against TCU, Leipold was able to lead the Jayhawks to six wins thanks to a home victory over No. 18-ranked Oklahoma State.

The win was KU’s first over a ranked opponent since 2010 and it was KU’s first home win against a ranked Big 12 opponent since 2005.

The win earned the program its first bowl birth since 2008.

The Jayhawks would end up falling in a thrilling, triple-overtime matchup against Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl, but it was still a season to remember.

Four Jayhawks were named to the All-Big 12 Second Team and Cobee Bryant was an All-Big 12 First Team selection.

Player development and getting better day by day is something Leipold has preached from the beginning, and it showed this past season. That’s why sites like Pro Football Focus and CBS Sports have him ranked as a top 25 coach in college football.

KU’s success in year two under Leipold earned him and his staff well-deserved contract extensions – which included stipulations for getting the stadium and other football facilities some much needed upgrades.

Leipold has been exactly what this Kansas football program needed, and Goff deserves a lot of credit for getting this hire right considering the circumstances he was under at the time.

Typically, college football coaches aren’t hired in late spring. And yet, Goff – who was less than a month in on the job himself – was able to identify the right guy and put this program on the path toward success and respectability.

There’s still a lot of progress to be made – and Leipold would be the first to tell you that – but Kansas football is trending up for the first time in more than a decade, and Goff is the man initially responsible for making that happen.

For better or worse, an athletic director’s tenure and job security is primarily based on the head coaching hires they make, particularly in football and men’s basketball.

If the progress shown by Kansas football is any indication, we should be looking at a nice, long stay for the young AD.

Next. Kansas AD Travis Goff shares status on facility upgrades. dark