KU football coach Leipold not sweating undefeated Jayhawks’ omission in AP Top 25 poll

Gary Bedore/gbedore@kcstar.com

Lance Leipold isn’t using the AP football poll as a source of motivation for his undefeated Kansas Jayhawks team.

KU’s second-year coach said Tuesday he has not addressed the fact his team checked in as the first squad in the “others receiving votes” category after Saturday’s exciting 35-27 victory over Duke at Booth Memorial Stadium.

“I never have,” Leipold said referring to discussing polls with his teams at KU (4-0), Buffalo and Wisconsin-Whitewater. “National recognition, recognition as a whole is something that obviously we strive for, but we don’t control. If you spend a lot of time worrying about if you should or shouldn’t (be ranked) you probably won’t be long (in the running) anyway.

“So as far as chatter goes, I am not in that group text.”

(He was laughing when he said that last part.)

Coincidentally, Kansas State (3-1) is ranked No. 25 in the AP poll this week with 166 total points. KU enters Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. home game against unranked Iowa State (3-1) with 125.

“It makes good stories,” Leipold conceded of fan/media discussion of teams’ standing in the weekly poll. KU last was ranked in Week 8 of the 2009 season.

“I want to keep this team in a good mindset, stay focused on Iowa State,” the KU coach said. “We left a lot things out there Saturday (that) we have to get better at. Those things (mistakes on field) stack up on you over time.”

The 58-year-old Leipold indicated the Jayhawks’ sole focus is “Iowa State. I’m sorry, that’s what it has to be.

“We talk about conference games from here on out. This group knows how competitive it (Big 12) is, where we’ve been in the past and where we are going to have to be to keep moving forward. Playing West Virginia two weeks ago (a 55-42 KU win in OT on Sept 10) … this is not like it’s conference-opener time. It’s different for us. I don’t have to talk about that. We are kind of in a routine we’re not hitting on new things too much. Monday’s schedule is what we do. Tuesday’s schedule is what we do. We’re trying to stay focused.”

KU last Saturday played before its first home sellout since the KU vs. Kansas State game on Nov. 2, 2019. Prior to that game, KU’s last home sellout had been Nov. 14, 2009 against Nebraska.

As of early afternoon Tuesday, the Iowa State game had not been declared a sellout. It’s believed KU last had back-to-back sellouts during the 2009 season, when the Jayhawks welcomed crowds of at least 50,000 in five of its six home games. KU’s capacity used to be 50,071 but dropped to 47,233 several years ago when the Field Goal Club was added in the north bowl, costing the stadium some seats.

The crowd for the Duke game was 47,233.

“You get new visitors and people that are coming (to games) and that’s really neat,” Leipold said. “You look at what it (fan interest) can do to help the program in recruiting, whether high school players or others (from portal) when that is appropriate.

“You look at what it can do for a community and university, what it can do in alumni relations, things you need to keep your program moving in the right direction (and) for us many times to help us catch up. There are a lot of things it can benefit. I spend time when I’m needed win or lose if I need to be involved with boosters or donors.

“Of course, recruiting is a daily thing. If you get too distracted or consumed with it (concern about filling the stadium) , this will be just a blip.”

Leipold said his players are aware they’ve contributed to some excitement on campus and in the community.

“I’ve always felt strongly about that,” Leipold said of football’s role in setting the tone for the school year in athletics. “I think that’s true in the high school ranks. High school administrators and principals talk about what it does to hallways of a high school when the school year gets kicked off and your high school football team is playing well.

“There don’t seem to be as many discipline issues. They (students) have excitement looking forward to Friday. Same can be said at the college football level.

“We are very unique because of our rich tradition in basketball,” Leipold added. “They’ve been carrying the torch for so long. We understood when we arrived the challenge, but understanding what it can do for a community, and coach (Bill) Self has been very supportive in that. Again we are just trying to do our little piece in this thing.”

INJURY UPDATE: Leipold on Tuesday shared an update on the health of running back Ky Thomas, who did not play against Duke because of a “lower extremity” injury. “He is working through it. It’s day-to-day,” Leipold said. “He’s out there, not full speed. We’ll see where it goes.” Thomas, a 5-11, 200-pound redshirt sophomore transfer from Minnesota, has gained 25 yards on 11 carries in limited duty. He’s caught a pair of passes for three yards.