Kansas football: AD Travis Goff asks ‘fringe’ fans for more support as Lance Leipold, Michigan State talk grows louder

Kansas' head football coach Lance Leipold looks up during the Big 12 football game against Texas Tech, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at Jones AT&T Stadium.
Kansas' head football coach Lance Leipold looks up during the Big 12 football game against Texas Tech, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at Jones AT&T Stadium. /

The Kansas football program is experiencing something that it hasn’t seen in more than a century.

For the time since 1915, the Jayhawks have started the season 4-0 in back-to-back years, and the team looks primed to make some real noise in the Big 12 as they head to Austin for a huge matchup against the Texas Longhorns.

The team is 4-0 and there is actual optimism heading into a road game against Texas? That’s a new feeling for this program and fanbase compared to the level of play that was shown before Lance Leipold arrived.

Unfortunately, what isn’t new – and has been a recurring problem in the past – is the lack of full buy-in from the KU fanbase.

In fact, it’s become such a problem in the eyes of the KU athletic department that Athletic Director Travis Goff sent out a note to Kansas fans this week asking for their support.

In the email, Goff first addressed his thanks to the students, fans, and alumni who have shown their support, stating “We are so grateful for the loyalty, passion and support you all have provided this team and program.”

He then goes on to address the KU fans who are “on the fringe” – those who haven’t taken that next step of being all in on this program.

“For many years, we did not warrant outstanding fan support,” said Goff. “I get it. But that’s in the rearview mirror … there are many great reasons to stay on the sideline, but that mentality will not help us reach uncharted heights. We need you. And we need you now to be part of the story that is being written right here at KU.”

Goff goes on to mention that there are still tickets available for the home matchups against UCF, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Kansas State – and how there shouldn’t be given how this team has performed and what this coaching staff has shown this past year.

And he’s not wrong.

Leipold has blown away the expectations that Goff or any reasonable KU fan could have had when he was hired in April 2021. The turnaround of this program, given where it was when he took over, is nothing short of remarkable.

The team has finally given fans a reason to show up on game days. They’ve earned that support. And it may be a key factor in keeping Leipold in Lawrence long term.

One of college football’s most trusted insiders – Bruce Feldman of The Athletic – reported this week that Leipold is a top target in the Michigan State head coaching search.

Now, while that doesn’t mean anything conclusive at this point, it does mean that Leipold is going to continue to be a target for other schools with more established football programs as long as KU is performing well.

And although KU has committed to Leipold in a big way through a pay raise this past year and by making upgrades to the weight room and locker room – with stadium renovations starting after this season – continued fan support feels like it could be the difference in keeping Leipold versus eventually losing him to a better program.

No, he did not take the job at Nebraska or Wisconsin last year – but what happens if they come calling again? What happens if a program with more notoriety than Michigan State comes calling next year after Leipold leads KU to back-to-back bowl appearances?

I don’t think money is – or will be – a question for Leipold down the road in determining whether to stay or leave KU, and I think Goff will always be willing to pay him his worth. The question will likely be, does he want to coach at a school with ho-hum fan support for its football program or go somewhere where that isn’t an issue.

KU fans have the power to help eliminate that fateful possibility by showing their support for a Kansas team, coaching staff, and program that has finally earned it.

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