Remembering the legendary Mike Leach: What to know about coach's family, football legacy
Mississippi State coach Mike Leach died Monday night at the age of 61 after what the school said was complications from a heart condition.
Leach was in his third season at the school and was transported to a local hospital after falling ill Sunday at his Starkville, Mississippi home. He was then airlifted to University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
The impact that Leach left on college football remains and will lead into the future with his coaching tree, which includes TCU head coach Sonny Dykes and USC head coach Lincoln Riley.
MORE:Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach dies at 61
QUITE THE QUOTE:Mike Leach's funniest moments: From candy corn to Bigfoot to wedding advice
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Did Mike Leach play football?
Leach never played college football and his foray into coaching started in 1987 when he coached at Cal Poly. He received a law degree the year before from Pepperdine, but it wasn't until he linked up with Hal Mumme at Iowa Wesleyan where the fruits of the Air Raid offense began.
Leach went to Valdosta State and Kentucky with Mumme and, in 1998, Kentucky's offense made quarterback Tim Couch into a superstar and led to Couch being selected by the Cleveland Browns as the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1999. Leach joined Bob Stoops' staff at Oklahoma in 1999 becoming the school's offensive coordinator before taking the Texas Tech job in 2000.
How long was Mike Leach at Mississippi State?
During Leach's three seasons at Mississippi State, the Bulldogs went 19-17, including 8-4 in 2022. His passing offense threw the ball more than any team in college football this season, averaging nearly 50 attempts and 314 yards through the air per game.
Where else has Mike Leach coached?
Leach coached at Texas Tech for 10 seasons, producing some of the highest-scoring offenses during that time. His best season came in 2008 when the Red Raiders ascended to the No. 1 ranking and finished 11-2. He was fired on Dec. 30, 2009 after a player claimed mistreatment following a concussion. That player was Adam James, son of former ESPN broadcaster Craig James, who told Texas Tech then that Leach punished his son for having a concussion by having him locked in an electrical closet for hours. The claim was refuted by Leach and contradicted by witnesses. Leach eventually sued the school for wrongful termination.
His next stop was at Washington State in 2012, leading to an instant turnaround. In his eight seasons he had a 55–47 record and led the Cougars to six bowl appearances.
Leach agreed to become Mississippi State's head coach on Jan. 9, 2020, with his contract reported to pay him $5 million annually.
What is the "Air Raid" offense?
While the Air Raid offense has been around for decades, perhaps its popularity can be traced to Mumme and Leach. At each of his stops, Leach's teams threw the ball nearly every play, spreading out defenses with four and sometimes five wide receivers, and taking advantage of receivers making plays in space.
The offense combined elements of a no-huddle scheme, where the quarterback is exclusively in the shotgun formation, with the offensive lineman spread out, sometimes nearly two yards apart. This allows the quarterback to make quick decisions and avoid the pass rush. Sometimes, the short passing game was an extension of the running game, which was used more infrequently over the years. Nine times in the past decade, Leach's teams were in the top ten in passes attempted.
Mike Leach's coaching tree
Some of college football best coaches have served under Leach.
Sonny Dykes coached wide receivers and was the co-offensive coordinator under Leach from 2000 through 2006. He is now the head coach at TCU.
Dave Aranda was a graduate assistant coach under Leach from 2000 to 2002 at Texas Tech. Aranda is the current head coach at Baylor.
Lincoln Riley played under Leach at Texas Tech, then joined the staff and worked his way to becoming a wide receivers coach. Riley is the head coach at Southern Cal.
Dana Holgorson coached with Leach at Valdosta State and was Leach's offensive coordinator at Texas Tech from 2000 to 2007. Holgorson now is the head coach at Houston.
Kliff Kingsbury played quarterback for Leach from 2000 to 2002, throwing for 11,937 yards and 91 touchdowns during those three seasons. Kingsbury is the head coach of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals.
Was Mike Leach married?
Leach is survived by his wife, Sharon, and children Janeen, Kim, Cody and Kiersten.
What were some of Mike Leach's most memorable quotes?
On pirates: "Pirates function as a team. There were a lot of castes and classes in England at the time. But with pirates, it didn't matter if you were black, white, rich or poor. The object was to get a treasure. If the captain did a bad job, you could just overthrow him."
On candy corn: "I've never liked candy corn. I think it's just awful," Leach said as documented by Pac-12 Network cameras. "I think candy corn is awful. You know, it's like fruitcake. There's a reason they serve fruitcake once a year, because it's awful. There's a reason they only serve mint julips once a year, because they're awful. And there's a reason they only serve candy corn once a year, because it's awful. Now that does beg the question why they serve it at all, but, anyway, that's my opinion."
On hot dogs: I don’t like hot dogs. I’ve never liked hot dogs even when I was a kid,” Leach said at the 2017 Pac-12 media days. “I think some of that started when I was a really young kid. You know, I’ve had bologna sandwich after bologna sandwich, so anything that even remotely resembled bologna, I hated. And you know, everyone always says, ‘Go to the ball game. Or, eat a hot dog.’ Not me. And no, it’s not a sandwich. I’m not into hot dogs."
On Big Foot: "We found bones of dinosaurs and everything else, but we haven't found bones that I've heard of, of Bigfoot. It would be fun if there's Bigfoot. I hope there's Bigfoot. But my guess would be there's not."
Was Mike Leach on 'Friday Night Lights'?
During the fourth season of "Friday Night Lights", Leach portrayed a "random loon" at a gas station who implores coach Eric Taylor to "swing your sword" and "find your inner pirate."
What's next for Mississippi State?
The Bulldogs are slated to play Illinois in the ReliaQuest Bowl on Jan. 2 in Tampa, Florida. When Leach was hospitalized, the school announced that defensive coordinator Zach Arnett was placed in charge of the football team. Bulldogs interim athletic director Bracky Brett told ESPN that Mississippi State will play in the bowl game and Arnett will coach the team.
"The players are 100% behind playing this bowl game and doing what Coach Leach would expect them to do," Brett said. "We all know that's what Coach Leach would want, and it's what we should do."
The ReliaQuest Bowl will be played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Leach was know to have an affinity for pirates and the stadium has a 100-foot long pirate ship located in the north end zone.
"It's only fitting that we play this game and honor Coach Leach in a stadium that has a pirate ship," Brett said.
The Clarion Ledger (Mississippi) contributed to this story.