Whitewater Warhawks head football coach Lance Leipold was announced Monday to be leaving the school after this season for the same position at the University of Buffalo, taking two additional faculty with him.
A former Warhawk quarterback himself, Leipold, 50, has been head coach at Whitewater since 2007; in the seven years since, he has won the university six national championships. During his 106-game tenure, the team suffered a mere six losses, the recent landslide victory against the Eau Claire Blugolds making Leipold the fastest head coach in NCAA history to reach the hundredth-win milestone. However, with the announcement of his departure, some concern has been raised as to the future of the team.
“Lance was the best football coach I’ve had yet,” said Warhawks offensive lineman Austin Jones. Jones began playing for Whitewater when he transferred here as a sophomore in the fall of 2013.
“He worked us hard, but he was fair and he was smart,” Jones elaborated. “My first season on his team ended up being my first national championship to boot. There aren’t a lot of people who can pull [off] something like that. I think it’ll be hard to do it again without him.”
Linebacker Zak Kurtz also had positive words to say about Leipold.
“He really connects with the players. If you talk to [other teams’ players] you’ll hear some of them say how Whitewater’s players seem to have a stronger bond with their coaches.” Kurtz, 21, expressed his doubts that a new coach could simply inherit the unity of the team from Leipold.
“Personally, I’m not too worried for them,” said former Warhawk defensive tackle Brandon Hanke. “[Leipold] is a great coach, don’t get me wrong…but, in the end, it’s [the players] out on the field that are going to win the game. We won [national championships] before he was head coach, and we can do it again.”
Leah Harms, Events Coordinator for Whitewater’s Intercollegiate Athletics department, expressed a more short-term concern.
“The next season, the seasons after that, that’s not a problem to me,” said Harms. “I would be more concerned with the timing of the announcement. We’re in the middle of the playoffs, we have a title to defend again, and now the players find out it’s [Leipold’s] last season, that puts a lot more pressure on them to perform well and do him proud.”
As Winston Churchill once said, “It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.” Whether the Warhawks can hold (or reclaim) their title after Leipold’s departure remains to be seen; for now, it is best to enjoy the rest of the season without too much worry.
“Lance taught us a ton,” said Kurtz. “All we can do is take what he taught us and move forward with it. And I’m sure that’s all he wants.”
Leipold will finish out the 2014 season with the Warhawks before coaching the Bills. His replacement as head coach has not yet been announced.