UW-Whitewater Warhawks are making a name for themselves
WHITEWATER - The Green Bay Packers have won an NFL record 13 championships. The Wisconsin Badgers have played in three consecutive Rose Bowls.
But neither - in terms of recent sports dynasties in our state can hold a candle to the UW-Whitewater Warhawks.
Undefeated yet again this football season, Coach Lance Leipold has made the small Southern Wisconsin community the biggest name on the coast-to-coast Division III map. National Champions four times since Leipold's inaugural 2007 season, Whitewater Athletics has become the Gold Standard for non-scholarship student-athletes.
One of the biggest reasons the Warhawks have been so successful is "because there is such good football in the state of Wisconsin," Leipold says. "Here, right where we are at, between the Milwaukee and the Madison areas, we're close to the Fox Valley enough where we can recruit. And then, he suburbs of Chicago."
The most mind-boggling statistic about Leipold's tenure is that after five seasons at the helm of the school he quarterbacked for in the 1980s, he had more National Championships...than losses. That statistic becomes even more impressive when you consider that there are 30 conferences and 244 programs playing Division III football.
Currently 88-6 overall as a head coach, three of those losses came last year, during a 7-3 campaign that would have been satisfactory almost anywhere else. Instead, people were wondering what went wrong?
"Well, they were," Leipold admits. "I said the day I got the job, I stepped into a program that has high expectations. But I felt that would be better than people not knowing whether you have a football team on campus and if there is a game even on Saturday."
But there was another unanticipated silver lining f last season's 7-3. It "made us all, and myself as the head coach, take look back and maybe appreciate more what was accomplished," Leipold says.
Currently, the Warhawks are 9-0 and ranked fifth nationally. Consistency is one key. Expectations are another. Leipold, a former Graduate Assistant at Wisconsin and Nebraska, has seen first-hand how to run programs that are nationally televised every Saturday.
"We're going to try to run this like a Division 1 football program within the budgetary means structure that we're allowed to," Leipold says, adding "But we're going to try do all those things and make it a first-class experience much like Coach (Barry) Alvarez did when I had a chance to be a grad assistant there."
But this still is Division III. Generally the only time you get national attention is when you win a National Championship. Like they do in Whitewater. It can lead to appearances in Sports Illustrated and on national radio shows with hosts like CBS' Tim Brando or Sirius XM's Jack Arute.
The Warhawks wrap up their regular season Saturday at home against River Falls. Then, it's on to the playoffs, and a chance at a fifth national championship since 2007 under Leipold.
"I believe we're doing it the right way," he says. "I think we're doing it with integrity, and professionalism, and consistency."