How Do You Follow a Lance Leipold?
During UW-W’s Media Day press conference, first year head coach Kevin Bullis was asked whether he was surprised his predecessor, Lance Leipold, was able to land a legitimate D-I coaching job.
“By no means,” Bullis responded. “To say he is deserving is an understatement. Lance is an amazing coach. It was really an honor to serve under him. Lance and I have known each other since 1990 when we were young guys working football camps. Lance has done all the right things to prepare himself. Pure had work, he has been around great people, he is a student of the game. So, no, it doesn’t surprise me. It would have surprised me if he wouldn’t (have gotten a D-I job), let’s put it that way.”
What kind of pressure does Bullis feel following Leipold, who was 109-6 with six national championships in eight seasons as the Warhawks’ head coach? “That’s a great question because it is something I had to ask myself last December. Lance offered me a chance to go to Bufffalo and it was tough to turn him down. But the reason I turned it down is that Division-III is where I’ve always envisioned myself. I have a passion for the mission of Division-III.
“So when I made the decision to not go with him, the first question I asked myself (when considering the Whitewater job) was ‘Wow, how do you fill Lance’s shoes.’ But then within minutes I remembered, ‘Wait a second, that was never our perspective.’ Our perspective was never to go and win national championships. Let’s put it this way, we didn’t go into the first meeting of the season and say, ‘We are going to go win the national championship. We never said that. The national championship was a by-product of of what we focused on. To me, we didn’t concentrate on national championships. We didn’t focus on WIAC championships. What we did concentrate on is getting better every day. When we met with the team last Thursday, that was the conversation. I said to the team, ‘Guys, our goal this year is to win the WIAC conference championship. That is our big picture goal. It will be the last time we talk about it. Because from here on out, what are we going to talk about? Getting better for that next practice. What are we doing now to get better for that next practice? Each person individually, whether it be coaches, trainers, equipment people, or players. That is our focus. And to me, looking at it in that manner, takes the pressure off. For someone to come in who had not been part of this program and not known that, that could have been insurmountable pressure.”
At this point, relatively early in fall camp, Coach Bullis does not have the look or sound of a man who is feeling pressure. While the games and resulting win-loss record always ups the ante for a coach, Bullis will likely benefit from his habit of not worrying about what he can’t control. “Pressure is all about what you put on yourself,” Bullis noted.