Kansas’ Lance Leipold wants the football team to benefit from the success of men’s basketball teams

Kansas football coach Lance Leipold had taken no more than half a dozen steps beyond the front gate of New Orleans’ House of Blues Monday night before being contacted in the yard by a fan who wanted to introduce himself.

Leipold greeted the man and his two friends for a few brief minutes and then mingled with the crowd of hundreds who had come down to the venue as part of the Jayhawks’ pep rally. In the midst of handshakes and hello, he tried to create optimism and support for his team among a fan base that included many donors – past, present and future.

Building support for a program that has not won more than three games in a season since 2009 may not be easy, but that Leipold was instantly recognized in his red Kansas sweatshirt with a quarter zipper among a sea of ​​people who also had them on, shows that they are interested in what he is trying to achieve.

And he hopes that between the support and the lessons the men’s basketball team has given during their race for the NCAA title, he can inspire a new level of faith in the football program.

“The great thing about this is a lot of our fans and donors and stuff like that – I’ve had more time during this to really have conversations and talk and get to know them, and they get to know me,” Leipold said. . “And what’s really rewarding is that they saw the progress our team made late in the season, and they see the progress that we’re making in many different ways. I can feel the excitement. They can tell that there is is definitely a change in KU football. “

Leipold also traveled to Chicago two weeks ago when the men’s basketball team played in the Midwest Region Finals and spoke to Kansas fans in the hall.

He said some of the discussions he has had have been enlightening, especially because some supporters have acknowledged that they no longer follow the football program due to its lack of success.

“We’ve had those conversations,” he said. “There are times that ‘Yes, I’ve followed a bit, but I fell away’, and to do some things, I think it helps. I think again that one shows support for this program, and everything shows a united front, and I think we get them involved again. They see it. But again, it’s not their fault that they fell away. We have to give them stability and consistency day in and day out, so they want to get behind us and give them reason to support us. “

The success of Kansas’ other teams can also pay off for Leipold in recruiting, which means as much as financial support.

He has been trying to use the men’s basketball team’s brand awareness to appeal to potential players, and the fact that the women’s basketball team appeared for the first time in the NCAA Tournament in nine years last month can tell them they want to go to a school committed to athleticism. expertise.

It has worked for him before. During the 2014 season, when he was the football coach of Wisconsin-Whitewater, the school became the first in any of the NCAA’s three divisions to win national championships in soccer, men’s basketball, and baseball. It also won a women’s gymnastics title that year.

Not long after he won, he had conversations with UW-Whitewater tennis and women’s soccer coaches about what they could do to lift their team to that standard.

“It can be contagious,” Leipold said. “It motivates the athletes and our program and other programs to try to reach the heights that the basketball program has reached here.”

Leipold’s task is also to turn that attention inward. While Kansas’ men’s basketball team certainly has not lacked the success that the football team has, it was able to integrate several players who moved to the university to fill specific roles – among them backward Ky Thomas, who is from Topeka and spent his first two seasons in Minnesota before joining Kansas in January.

Thomas, who grew up playing basketball against Christian Braun, a junior guard on the men’s basketball team, said the parallels between the programs have been discussed as early as this week.

And since those comparisons have been made, Thomas found it relevant to draw one more.

“The last time we won a national championship game (in 2008), we went to a bowling match,” said Thomas. “It’s definitely the goal. We’ve seen their success and the love they got, and the support they got throughout their journey in March, so it’s something we’re definitely looking forward to getting and working towards. ”

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