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Lance Leipold Weighs in on the Big 12’s New Additions, Impact it Will Have on Recruiting

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By Michael Swain, 247Sports.com

 

The Big 12’s long term outlook has fluctuated over the last two years, as the conference saw Texas and Oklahoma agree to leave for the SEC before it pivoted to adding UCF, BYU, Houston and Cincinnati. And over the last few weeks, that outlook has changed even more to the positive side of the spectrum, as the Big 12 poached three Pac 12 schools in Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah.

While the likes of UCF, BYU, Houston and Cincinnati joined the conference this summer in an official capacity, the four Pac 12 schools will have to wait a year before they can join the Big 12. When they do, it’ll replace two spots vacated by Texas and Oklahoma and take the Big 12 to a total of 16 teams. Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark has also stated that the conference will rebrand after this academic year, so the conference will have an entirely new feel in 11 months time.

From a KU football perspective, the general competitiveness and parity of the conference looks set to take a step forward next offseason. That, to Lance Leipold, is an exciting prospect.

“I think we’ve added a total of four quality schools with great Universities each in their own traditions. … I think anything that helps the total profile and brand of our conference will help our university. So that’s exciting.”

It’s also a much different feel than this time in 2021. Then, Leipold was heading into his first year with the program and the outlook of the Big 12 was murky, following the announcement that Texas and Oklahoma were leaving. Last August, Brett Yormark took over as the conference’s commissioner and he’s helped stabilize the conference.

“I think our commissioner has done an outstanding job, the presidents [and chancellors] as well,” Leipold said. “And what they’ve been doing to stabilize our conference, which wasn’t the view you know, two months into my job here. … I think we’ve put ourselves on good foundation.”

With new schools coming in comes new recruiting ground KU could extend to.

The Jayhawks have already ventured into Colorado and Arizona. In Colorado, KU has a good relationship with Cherry Creek High School. The Jayhawks have offered and pursued several players from the school and freshman Logan Brantley is a graduate of the school. In Arizona, KU has developed a good relationship with Desert Edge High School and other schools in the Phoenix area. KU has four Arizona natives in the 2024 class.

Leipold said KU has done a little bit of recruiting in the state of Utah and it’s something KU could do more of down the road. For the KU head coach, his own experience with former KU player has opened his eyes to what KU can do on the recruiting trail out west.

“I think it’s gonna be interesting, how that landscape changes,” Leipold said. “We’ve had former players at our house before the spring game, the first year I was really intrigued and surprised by the amount of players that still live in this area that were from California and things like that. So I think the whole thing, depending on the future of the PAC 12, everything west can be for us recruiting-wise and will be things we’re going to take good hard looks at.”

There’s always the possibility that more realignment could happen down the road. At this point, Leipold isn’t going to get caught off guard by anything.

“I don’t know what surprises you anymore,” Leipold said. “I think there’s understanding that things may happen. Is it over? I don’t know.”

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