Mike Leach, Mississippi State head coach and college football icon, passes away at 61
Mike Leach has tragically passed away at the age of 61 Monday night, the school announced Tuesday morning. He was hospitalized Sunday afternoon following a medical emergency, reported to be a massive heart attack, at his home. The innovative college football coach with a quirky personality was one of the sport’s most admired figures by players, peers and fans around the country throughout a multi-decade career.
Leach, affectionately known as The Pirate, coached under Hal Mumme at Kentucky before becoming an FBS head coach and further popularizing the pass-heavy Air Raid offense. He coached at Texas Tech and Washington State before taking the Mississippi State job ahead of the 2020 season.
MSU Bulldog family, college football community mourns the death of Coach Mike Leachhttps://t.co/LzWyLyX3xM
— Mississippi State Football (@HailStateFB) December 13, 2022
Leach’s coaching tree includes Lincoln Riley, Sonny Dykes, Dave Aranda and Dana Holgorson. Riley, Josh Huepel and Kliff Kingsbury played for Leach during their college careers.
Leach had a 158-107 record as an FBS head coach. An American treasure to fans everywhere, Leach will best be remembered as a one-of-a-kind personality with a fascinating outlook and a brilliant mind for the game of football.
No matter where he coached, Leach had a national audience of fans who enjoyed his wit, which was always on display during his unpredictable media appearances. When Leach had an audience and a microphone in front of him, he never shied from sharing his thoughts on any and every topic that might come up, football or otherwise. A Leach rant on any topic with a camera rolling was guaranteed to find its way around the college football world in the age of social media.
Before coaching, Leach received a bachelor’s degree from BYU, where he played rugby (1979-83). At Pepperdine University, Leach studied law and earned his Juris Doctor degree.
In 1987, Leach got into football coaching, starting at Cal Poly as an offensive line coach. An early notable coaching stop was at Valdosta State (1992-96), a small Georgia program that has seen multiple staffers go on to become SEC head coaches.
After his time at Valdosta State as an offensive coordinator and position coach of multiple units, Leach joined Mumme’s Kentucky coaching staff. Leach was UK’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 1997-98, helping Tim Couch become a No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick.
Leach held the same position at Oklahoma in 1999 on Bob Stoops’ staff before taking the Texas Tech head coaching job. In 10 seasons with the Red Raiders (2000-09), Leach posted an 84-43 record, including 11 wins in 2008.
From 2012-19, Leach coached the Washington State Cougars. WSU was a 55-47 team in Leach’s tenure, notching 11 wins in 2018.
Leach took the Mississippi State job in 2020. In 3 seasons, the Bulldogs have gone 19-17. The 2022 team went 8-4 in regular-season play, the best record of Leach’s tenure.
Mississippi State QB Will Rogers broke multiple records playing in Leach’s offense. After 3 seasons, Rogers is the SEC career completions leader (1,130) and MSU’s all-time leader in passing yards (10,428) and passing touchdowns (81).
The Egg Bowl is known as one of the most bitter rivalries in college football. When Leach and Lane Kiffin took their jobs, it took on a bit of a different feel between the coaches with their mutual admiration. In Leach’s final game on Nov. 24, Mississippi State defeated Ole Miss 24-22.
Our thoughts are with the Leach family and the Mississippi State community.