We're getting down to the nitty-gritty of the top Division III jobs and things are getting tougher and tougher as we enter the elite air of rich traditions and some of the top programs annually at the small college level.
Today, we unveil #3...
The list of programs that have had the type of high-level success that UW-Whitewater has had the last few decades is really, really short.
As a program, the Warhawks have won a total of 6 national titles, and 36 WIAC titles. For a while there, their clashes with Mount Union in the national title game were something that you count on annually just like the way you can count the sun setting and rising each day.
From 2005-2011, UW-Whitewater and Mount Union met ever season in the D-III national title game with the Warhawks prevailing in 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011 before returning with back-to-back titles over their newfound rivals in 2013 and 2014. That 2014 title was their last appearance in the Stagg Bowl until their loss to North Central (IL) this past season.
Over the years, the UW-Whitewater identity has been as adaptable as any. They've won with elite defense, they've had one of the highest scoring offenses and most potent rushing attacks in small college football. Bottom line - they've adapted to their personnel and done what they need to in order to win. One thing that has remained unchanged over the years has been their blue collar approach and commitment to annually being one of the top teams in the country.
In talking to some people that are familiar with UW-Whitewater, or that have had the opportunity to coach thereover the years, each person talks about how the success of the football program has permeated into the campus community. Everyone from academics to admissions to athletics has high competitive standards and expectations, creating for a really rare campus culture and environment.
According to NCAA attendance figures, UW-Whitewater ranked second nationally in average fan attendance at just over 6,000 fans per game, and to give you an idea of their fan support the last time they ranked outside of the top 6 in Division III attendance was 2007, and you'd have to go all the way back to 2005 to see them not ranked in the top 10.
One of the other things that makes Whitewater a really unique job is the fact that it is a state-school. A large majority of Division III schools are private with shocking sticker prices, but schools that are a part of the UW school system are at a distinct advantage because they're able to offer tuition at a fraction of the price of many of the private schools the same size. That also means they get a good chunk of state funding as a part of the UW system, which shows in their impressive athletics facilities, and some recent updates and upgrades that they've made. That bargaining chip is a great one to keep talent in-state (and they do an outstanding job of that by taking a look at their roster with a healthy amount of guys from the Chicago suburbs as well), and while there are a number of UW system schools at the Division III level in-state, only one can offer the type of tradition and culture that Whitewater has created.
Kevin Bullis has six seasons under his belt since taking over for Lance Leipold after the longtime leader of the program made the rare jump from D-III to the the FBS level at Buffalo. In those six seasons since being promoted from defensive line coach and being tabbed to step in for the most successful coach in program history, Bullis is an impressive 70-11 overall and is coming off an appearance in the national title game in 2019.
We should take a second and acknowledge how rare it is for a D-III coach to make the jump to the FBS level, but the body of work that Leipold had built leading the Warhawks to an incredible 109-6 record and six national titles in eight seasons as head coach. There aren't many FBS programs that would hire a D-III head coach to make that jump, and that's a testament to Leipold and UW-Whitewater and just how good of a job this one is.
Through the hard work and foundation laid by Leipold and Bullis, you can almost surely count on Whitewater being a top team competing for a national title every year at the Division III level, and the commitment from fans and administration there, along with the culture from the football program that has infiltrated the rest of campus in a positive way makes this one of the best small college jobs out there.
While the UW-Whitewater program has a lot of advantages, the two schools that ranked higher have a slight edge in one area - location.
Stay tuned tomorrow for our #2 ranked job at the Division III level.