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Jayhawks Secure Their Future in Lance Leipold: College Athletics' Ever-Changing Arms Race

Lance Leipold on the sidelines for the Guaranteed Rate Bowl
© Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SPORTS

Kansas Jayhawks head coach Lance Leipold signed an amended contract Wednesday that all but guarantees he will stay at the University of Kansas. The contract, worth over $7 million per year, is one of the largest average salaries in the Big 12 Conference and makes Leipold one of the top 20 highest-paid coaches in the country. You can read more about the details of the contract here at College Football Dawgs. Leipold's contract means so much more though than Kansas securing their coach, and in the ever-changing landscape of college athletics, Kansas may have got hot at just the right time.

Lance Leipold's Contract: What it Means for Kansas

The Kansas Jayhawks football program has been historically bad for the last 12 years or so. In those 12 grueling years, Kansas won 23 games and lost a whopping 121, a 19 percent winning percentage. Many called the program the dumpster fire of Division 1 college football and were plenty justified in doing so. Kansas students and fans ranged from apathetic to downright resentful of the program, and after a slew of bad coaches and athletic directors, not much hope was held out for Lance Leipold and AD Travis Goff when they were hired in 2021. In Leipold's first year at Kansas though, there was in fact, promise. They still went 2-10, yes, but beat Texas for the first time ever in Austin and kept many of their other games competitive. In 2022, Kansas had their best season since 2008, going 6-7 and making a bowl game. This past year the Jayhawks got even better, going 9-4 and winning a bowl game, with just a few strokes of bad luck keeping them from going to Arlington for the Big 12 championship game. Kansas believes in Lance and Lance believes in Kansas, and with the talent they have coming in as well as what they have returning, the Jayhawks are poised to make an even stronger run at the Big 12 title and a potential College Football Playoff spot.

"If it was strictly about money, I wouldn't be here."-Lance Leipold said during a press conference after signing the contract.

Leipold has the Jayhawk faithful excited about Kansas football again. People are buying in and taking notice, which is what led to Kansas locking down Leipold for the future. After being talked about for the Washington job and a few others, Kansas needed to act and act they did, giving Leipold the big bucks to stay and giving him the resources to succeed in the Gateway District Project and multiple other missions to improve the program. Kansas cares about football again and is in it for the long haul, and it may have been right on time considering what will be talked about next.

Lance Leipold's Contract: What it Represents in the Grand Scheme of Things

College football is a huge sport, like the second biggest sports league in the country huge, counting both professional and college. It brings in an average of $31.9 million per school annually, according to's Kiko Badillo, which given that there are 134 FBS teams, means that roughly $4.3 billion runs through the FBS alone. Compare that to the NFL, the league that makes the most money in the entire world, which brings in around $18 billion annually, and the proof is in the pudding. College football makes money, but you know what they say, you have to spend money to make money, and for college athletics programs that could not be truer. College athletic programs engage in a sort of "arms race" to be the most attractive to recruits, fans, coaches, students, and personnel alike. The best

programs have the best facilities and amenities to be the most eye-catching and to maintain a reputation. In the age of NIL, money and reputation have taken center stage in college athletics, and the proof of that clout is most represented in college football. It makes or breaks a department and given how much money athletics in general rakes in, could make or break a university as well. What has begun to take shape though, over the past few years, is the movement of schools and conferences toward leaning into the money and reputation. With the dwindling of the NCAA's power over these schools, conferences, and universities are beginning to take charge and flex over one another, to the point where there's a possibility that if you don't keep up with the "Joneses," now more than ever, you could find your program falling into irrelevancy and in turn, your university's finances and student experience might dwindle too.

This is why Kansas struck while the iron was hot. Yes, Kansas has one of the best basketball programs in the NCAA, however, basketball is not the moneymaker and will not be able to save the athletic department's reputation and financial status. Goff, who is a Kansas alum, knew this and before he even stepped foot back on campus, he vowed to bring this football program back to life.

Lance Leipold and Travis Goff shaking hands
© Evert Nelson/The Cap/USA TODAY SPORTS

"In 12, 18, 24 (months), college athletics could look pretty different ... For KU, the focus is on being the best version of ourselves today and (having) confidence that will position ourselves to continue to compete and aspire to win and represent our institution.."-Travis Goff said during the press conference.

Goff saw the writing on the wall and took action, something that athletic directors before him at Kansas did not see. He saw a guy who could get the football program back on its feet in Leipold and made sure that he was in it for the long haul because he knew how strong of a pull football has on college athletics. Think about it, this movement of conferences, this insane NIL spending, and this "new era" of college athletics does not happen without football's impact on it all, and the better your football program is, the better your athletics department is in general, and the better your university is.

Schools are leaving conferences because of how little opportunity there is to build upon their money and reputation in that conference, which is why you may see the birth of super conferences in the coming years. Schools need to start preparing their athletic departments for these changes, and that is partly what this signing for Kansas was all about. They're preparing for a new look Big 12, or perhaps the Big 12 to not even exist anymore, and preparing to get out while they can by building their money maker and doing their best to bolster their reputation. Given what's happened with the case of the Tennessee vs. NCAA, there's a lot of uncertainty as to how much power both the NCAA and schools truly have. One thing is for certain though, change is coming, and before we all know it. We could see a very different landscape of college athletics, a change catalyzed by college football.


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