Dec 10, 2014 By Zuhayr Tahir
To say that the Whitewater student body was surprised to learn their beloved head football coach wouldn’t be returning next season is an understatement.
Shocked is more like it.
Nnews broke on Nov. 30 that UW-Whitewater head coach Lance Leipold would be leaving the D-III landscape and heading to the D-I University of Buffalo Bulls.
The timing couldn’t have been worse as the Warhawks are working towards their sixth championship under Leipold’s tenure, but lucky for us, he has decided to stay and see the season through.
Some may call Leipold a traitor, but I say different.
The whole point of being a head coach is working toward the top. Sure, spending your entire career at the small D-III school that doesn’t offer scholarships and shares its gym with students and faculty sounds cute, but it’s not the smartest business decision.
Leipold has done everything he could for Whitewater. He’s earned a career record of 107-6 and has won a total of five national championships, going on six, in eight years. He has brought a championship atmosphere to this small town school that can only be admired.
Now looking at the program moving forward, how impactful will Leipold’s absence be?
When news of the coach’s departure broke, ‘Hawks receiver Justin Howard tweeted, “Players win games NOT COACHES.” Sorry Justin, but Saturday’s game against Wartburg College proved just how important coaching is to this team’s success.
Down 33-16 in the second half could have easily been the nail to the coffin on the ’Hawks season. They faced a fourth-and-two near midfield and could have fell prisoner to the moment and went for it.
Instead, coach Leipold saw there was still a whole quarter left to play and made the unpopular decision to punt the ball. The Hawks were able to make a stop on defense and grabbed the momentum, ultimately winning 37-33.
Small decisions like the one Leipold made against Wartburg are what make the ’Hawks a championship team instead of just a playoff team.
The importance of coaching far outweighs the athletes put on the field. Of course you need talent, but these are students who are thrown into a whole new game that is much bigger than it was in high school. They are still learning the game and learning how to become professionals.
And let’s not even get started on recruiting. Players came from all over knowing Coach Leipold would put them in a position to succeed and get the best out of them. Now with uncertainty at the position, potential athletes may shy away.
Warhawk fans should appreciate this run while it lasts because come next year, they may not be watching the ’Hawks this late into the playoffs.