Mike Leach, the eccentric longtime college football coach who was guiding the Mississippi State Bulldogs, has died. He was 61.
The school announced his death on Tuesday.
“Mike was a giving and attentive husband, father and grandfather,” Leach’s family said in a statement. “He was able to participate in organ donation at UMMC as a final act of charity. We are supported and uplifted by the outpouring of love and prayers from family, friends, Mississippi State University, the hospital staff, and football fans around the world. Thank you for sharing in the joy of our beloved husband and father's life.”
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The school said Leach died following complications from a heart condition.
“Coach Mike Leach cast a tremendous shadow not just over Mississippi State University, but over the entire college football landscape,” school president Mark E. Keenum said in a statement. “His innovative Air Raid’ offense changed the game. Mike's keen intellect and unvarnished candor made him one of the nation's true coaching legends. His passing brings great sadness to our university, to the Southeastern Conference, and to all who loved college football. I will miss Mike's profound curiosity, his honesty, and his wide-open approach to pursuing excellence in all things.”
Keenum added: “Mike's death also underscores the fragility and uncertainty of our lives. Three weeks ago, Mike and I were together in the locker room celebrating a hard-fought victory in Oxford. Mike Leach truly embraced life and lived in such a manner as to leave no regrets. That's a worthy legacy. May God bless the Leach family during these days and hours. The prayers of the Bulldog family go with them.”
Leach got his collegiate head-coaching start at Texas Tech University in 2000 after serving as an assistant under Bob Stoops at Oklahoma in the late 1990s. He was also an assistant under Hal Mumme at Iowa Wesleyan University and moved with to Valdosta State and later Kentucky. He also spent time in the American Football Association of Finland as a head coach.
MIKE LEACH'S EPIC RANTS AND CLEVER QUIPS REMEMBERED AS MISSISSIPPI STATE COACH BATTLES HEALTH ISSUE
He brought that knowledge to the Red Raiders where he developed several quarterbacks into gunslingers – Kliff Kingsbury and Graham Harrell to name a few. He was 84-43 with Texas Tech and 5-4 in bowl games.
Three years later, Leach took the Washington State job and brought the Cougars to prominence. Again, he would put together an offense that saw Gardner Minshew and Anthony Gordon rack up more than 4,000 passing yards in their respective seasons.
He spent eight years at Washington State and led them to an 11-win season in 2018. He was 55-47 with the Cougars and 2-4 in bowl games.
In 2020, Leach moved to Mississippi State and an SEC that was already loaded with the sport’s top coaches. He was 4-7 in the COVID-impacted season but salvaged the year with a win in the Armed Forces Bowl.
He would go 7-6 in 2021 and 8-4 in 2022. He was preparing for the ReliaQuest Bowl when the school announced his health issue.
“We are heartbroken and devastated by the passing of Mike Leach,” interim athletics director Bracky Brett said in a statement. “College football lost one of its most beloved figures today, but his legacy will last forever. Mike's energetic personality, influential presence and extraordinary leadership touched millions of athletes, students, coaches, fans, family and friends for decades.
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“Mike was an innovator, pioneer and visionary. He was a college football icon, a coaching legend but an even better person. We are all better for having known Mike Leach. The thoughts and prayers of Mississippi State University and the entire Bulldog family are with his wife Sharon, his children and the entire Leach family.”