Big 12 Media Days notebook: Kansas faces tough rebuilding task under new coach

Ryan Pritt
The Charleston Gazette-Mail, W.Va. (TNS)
Kansas Jayhawks football coach Lance Leipold speaks virtually to the media during Big 12 media days July 15 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The Kansas contingent was forced to do its Big 12 football Media Days interviews via Zoom on Thursday, not because of the COVID-19 pandemic but because of storms in the Lawrence area.

While the situation was a bit chaotic for the Jayhawks, it's par for the course considering what the team has been through in recent months.

Lance Leipold took over as the team's head coach in April after former coach Les Miles was dismissed following allegations of inappropriate behavior while at LSU.

Leipold certainly brings an impressive resume' with him — he went 109-6 with six national championships at Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater before taking over at Buffalo, where he was 37-33 over six years, winning two division titles and two Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year awards.

At age 56, Leipold has seen plenty of things as a college coach, but nothing like the situation he inherited just a few months ago.

"Very unique situation, I don't know one in recent history that it's happened this way that you take over a program after spring football has been completed," Leipold said. "It's been a whirlwind in so many different ways — assembling a staff, getting to know our players, the month of June was crazy for everyone in college football. Then you add to what we're trying to do and it's been a whirlwind and we're trying to get seven months of work done in about eight weeks."

If there's any program that didn't need to be at a disadvantage, it's Kansas, which was a unanimous pick to finish last in the preseason Big 12 Conference media poll. A turnaround is going to take time, and time is exactly what Leipold hasn't had ... yet.

But already, Leipold has clear and established goals for the program, and on Thursday he didn't shy away from what the ultimate aspirations are.

"We want to establish an identity, a culture and a way that we're going to move forward to bring Kansas football and the University of Kansas the program that it richly deserves," Leipold said.

Is The Force with Baylor?

It was a struggle for Baylor in its first season under Dave Aranda last year as the Bears finished 2-7 overall and in the league.

But for Aranda, the key to turning it all around — other than bringing in Jeff Grimes from BYU to serve as offensive coordinator — is just not to turn to the dark side.

Aranda is an admitted "Star Wars" junkie, and on Thursday he was asked about his fandom.

"I love 'Star Wars' — the myth part of it, the hero's journey part of it, of really working to stay on the light side and not going to the dark side," Aranda said. "When you're not winning or you're not having success, or even when you are winning and everyone's kind of bowing down to you and you are having success, to stay on that light side and not make it all be about you. To be selfless and be a servant. That's what I see in 'Star Wars', so I enjoy it."

A vote for the transfer rule

Over the course of the two days, coaches across the board touched on several of the hot-button issues in college football, including name, image and likeness policy, the expanded 12-team playoff, COVID-19 vaccinations and the one-time immediate-eligibility rule for first-time transfers.

While several coaches from all college sports have spoken out against the transfer rule, Kansas State's Chris Klieman has an opposite opinion, one that he shared on Thursday.

"You're going to lose kids and kids are going to leave your program," Klieman said. "Kids left every program in the country. I'm for the one-time transfer rule. I think it's great. I think it's awful when a kid has to sit and miss a year of football because this game is so great and it comes and goes so fast. But just trying to manage a roster for all of us moving forward is going to be really, really tricky and it's going to create potentially a lot of parity in the fact that you may have to turn over a position group every year."

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was in attendance on Thursday, but one thing was noticeably missing — his signature mullet.

The party in the back had indeed been squelched but Gundy, who was asked about his hair, said it would return and that there is a reason for its disappearance.

"About a month ago I went to the gal, Kathy, who cuts my hair, she's cut it for 20 years," Gundy explained. "Even though it just takes 20 minutes, I don't want to be there for 20 minutes, I want to be doing something else and I love Kathy. But the point being is this, I said, 'Look, cut it to where I don't have to cut it until the season's over.' And she goes, 'Well, that means I'm going to have to cut your mullet off the back,' and I said, 'It's good, it won't be a big deal.'

"Well, I was wrong. Everywhere I go in town, my kids, 'What happened?' And all of that. So I joke with them and say, 'Hey, I need to do a little something different. I've been married 30 years, [my wife] needs something different, so I cut my hair.'

"Fortunately, it still grows really fast."

Contact Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948 or ryan.pritt@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @RPritt.