When Lance Leipold was introduced as the new head football coach three years ago, he knew what awaited him.
The Warhawks were coming off the best seasons in school history advancing to the national championship game in 2005 and 2006.
“The bar has been raised here the last couple of years,” Leipold said at his first news conference after taking over for legendary head coach Bob Berezowitz in 2007.
As hard as it might have been to do, Leipold has raised that bar even further.
Since he was hired three years ago, Leipold has guided the Warhawks to two national championships.
He’s also helped bridge the gap between UW-Whitewater and Mount Union as the top Division III football program in the country and has propelled the Warhawks to its best three-year stretch in school history.
Leipold, who was a Warhawk quarterback in the 1980s, has also been named the national coach of the year in each of his first three years.
That’s so much success in so little time.
So it raises the question:
Are there bigger things for Leipold?
Most likely there is, and it won’t be long before a Division II or even a Division I school comes calling, especially if he continues to win conference and national championships year in and year out.
Shortly after the ’Hawks won the national title over Mount Union last month, Leipold was one of four individuals who interviewed for the Grand Valley State (Mich.) head coaching position.
While Leipold was beat out by an assistant coach within the Grand Valley State program, he’s sure to get more offers soon.
His .933 winning percentage as the head coach speaks for itself.
Even if he does leave in the coming years, one thing should be understood.
The UW-Whitewater community and Warhawk fans should not be upset its leader interviewed for a Division II job.
Sure, UW-Whitewater is a gem and one of the best jobs in any sport in Division III. Moreover, it’s like one big happy family and the relationships he’s already built don’t just disappear.
Leipold is realizing this.
“The more exploring you can do, the more you find out what a great place Whitewater is and what a great situation we have to work in.”
It’s tough to leave a family, but in the coaching profession opportunities don’t come along everyday.
Assistant coach Jace Rindahl understands that.
“Whatever’s best for him and his family he’s going to make that decision and all of us around the Warhawk family will respect that,” Rindahl said.
There is a good chance, however, Leipold will stay at UW-Whitewater throughout this next decade, since returning to his alma mater was something he always wanted for himself and his family.
In fact, many coaches have long and successful careers in Division III. Just look at John Gagliardi at St. John’s (57 years) or Larry Kerhes at Mount Union (23 years).
But Leipold, who overcame a public relations nightmare last spring when he threatened to ban the Royal Purple from covering his team, didn’t want to make any predictions on his future.
“You never say never,” Leipold said. “You never paint yourself into a corner, but it’s not like your looking to run out. It’s a matter of you listen, you see, and then you keep moving forward because it’s always got to be a fit for everyone.”
However, there is a constant in this equation.
No matter where Leipold’s future takes him, his winning philosophy will not go away, his passion and energy will not go away and his focus and dedication to the most finite details will not go away.
He’s helped build this powerhouse by recruiting the very best this state and the surrounding states have to offer.
While some could argue Leipold won the 2007 championship with Berezowitz’s players, a majority of the 2009 roster was filled with his recruits.
Regardless, he’s accomplished feats no other coach has done in UW-Whitewater history.
But let’s not forget something:
Leipold is still UW-Whitewater’s head coach and his legacy will just continue to grow.