With the news yesterday of the passing of Mississippi State’s head coach Mike Leach, the college football world was shocked. Leach, who was 61 years old, passed away from a heart attack he suffered on Sunday. Although this news is sudden and tragic, it is impossible not to think about how Mike Leach changed the game of football and how much of character he was.
Leach was asked a few years back by ESPN’s Jeremy Schapp about what people would write in his obituary? Leach’s response was a perfect.
“That’s their problem, they’re the one writing the obituary, what do I care? I’m dead. The only regret I’ll have is I didn’t get to do more things. “
“Coffee tastes terrible anyway” -Mike Leach, as he drinks coffee pic.twitter.com/SLe5PTYG3p
— Unnecessary Roughness (@UnnecRoughness) October 8, 2022
Influence on Other Coaches
Being dubbed the Mad Scientist of Football because he never played the sport, and The Pirate. Modern college football today cannot be talked about without mentioning Mike Leach. Leach popularized the air raid or spread offense in college, which most teams implement today. He also has a has an extensive coaching tree spread out form him.
Dave Aranda (Baylor), Neal Brown (West Virginia), Sonny Cumbie (Louisiana Tech), Sonny Dykes (TCU), Josh Heupel (Tennessee), Dana Holgorson (Houston), Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona NFL), Seth Littrell (North Texas), Lincoln Riley (USC), and Ken Wilson (Nevada) all either played for or coached under Leach at one point or another throughout Leach’s nearly forty year career.
Offensive Coordinator Career
Leach almost did not get into to coaching though, after he graduated from BYU, he attended law school wanting to products liability attorney. Leach started his coaching career in 1987 at Cal Poly then to the College of the Desert and then spent a year in Finland coaching for the Pori Bears. In 1989 Leach developed the air raid offense at Iowa Wesleyan, alongside Hal Mumme.
Leach would use his style of offense to help him at Valdosta State in Georgia and at the University of Kentucky before he would become the offensive coordinator for legendary coach Bob Stoops at Oklahoma.
A 38-year old Mike Leach introduces the offense that would permanently change the #Big12 during his one and only spring as Oklahoma offensive coordinator in 1999. #Sooners pic.twitter.com/NkAyx9gDdt
— Douglas Miles (@douglasmilesCRG) December 13, 2022
At Oklahoma Leach would implement the four verticals free play when the opposing defense would go offsides and other mental warfare tactics to gain an edge on the opponent. This is where Mike Leach would use his intellect to get inside the head of opposing coaches.
that time oklahoma’s mike leach created an entirely fake play sheet to go up 17-0 on texas.
it’s far and away my favorite leach story. he was the only one crest enough to ever do it. pic.twitter.com/R9sw81yMXp
— drake c. toll, locked on baylor (@drakectoll) December 13, 2022
Known as “The Drop” Leach drew up a script of fake plays for the Red River Showdown against Texas. Leach would have one of his players to go drop the plays on the field so Texas could pick it up and think they had an advantage on them (Oklahoma). Leach had drawn up play that were complimentary to what he was going to run so that Texas would think they had the leg up on them. Oklahoma would open the game up 17-0 but would eventually falter losing 38-28.
Head Coaching Career
Leach’s air raid offense was all about spreading the defense and sharing the ball. If the defense had to go one on one or even play a zone it was all about what the best choice was to take. Leach also like to play with pace trying to keep the defense on their toes. The offense was like that of a basketball style of offense. The name of the game was distributing the ball evenly and taking what was open. This would eventually land him on Texas Tech’s radar.
Leach began his head coaching career at Texas Tech in 2000. Tech would go 7-6. After another seven win season in 2001, Leach and Kliff Kingsbury would lead Texas Tech to a 55-15 Tangerine Bowl victory of Clemson. This would be Texas Tech’s first bowl win since 1995. Texas Tech would have their most infamous season in the school’s history in 2008.
Texas Tech would win 11 games for the first time in 35 years and would have one of the most memorable plays in college football history. Texas Tech was losing to #1 Texas 33-22. With one final play, Graham Howell found Michael Crabtree, who was double covered, for a 28-yard touchdown pass with one second left on the clock. Tech would knock off the number one team in the country.
Texas Tech would poll as high as number two in the country in the BCS that season and would finish the season ranked eighth in the BCS.
RIP Coach Mike Leach. His interviews were performance art and will be missed pic.twitter.com/8A5uGWefI7
— Brian Moote (@MootePoints) December 13, 2022
Leach brought on Matt Williams as a kicker in 2008. Williams was participating in a free tuition contest if he could hit a kick. He split the uprights and Leach sent a member of the team strength staff to go get Williams. Leach brought Williams onto the team as their primary kicker.
The time Mike Leach recruited a kid who won a kicking contest during a Texas Tech game to join the team.
He didn't miss an extra point after that 🙏 pic.twitter.com/hoOJ9pYMsi
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) December 13, 2022
During Leach’s tenure at Texas Tech, he would surpass Spike Dykes with 84 wins as the winningest coach in school history. Leach would leave Texas Tech in 2009. He would with an overall record of 84-43 in ten seasons. In the 21 joint seasons prior to Leach’s arrival at Texas Tech, the Red Raiders would only win 113 games.
went down a youtube rabbit hole of best mike leach moments and uncovered a gem i had zero idea about.
ladies & gentlemen, here's mike leach giving a weather report. pic.twitter.com/ewFtL6cGtF
— robbie triano (@TheTrianoKid) December 12, 2022
Texas Tech would lead the nation in passing six times (2002, 2003, 2004,2005 2007, 2008) and finished top five each year. Graham Harrell would have the third most passing yards in a season (5833), fourth all time in NCAA history (15,793), and third in career touchdowns (134). BJ Symons had the most yards ever thrown for in a season with 5,833 until last year when his record was broken. Three of the top ten single game yardage record are by Texas Tech quarterbacks under Leach’s offense. Some would also say Leach’s spread offense is the reason Big 12 schools are mostly focused on offense and not defense now.
After a three-year hiatus, Leach would resurrect the Washington State Cougars in 2012. After finishing 3-9, 6-7, and 3-9 in his first three years at Washington State, Leach would finally reach nine wins. Washington State would have their first bowl win since 2003 when they defeated Miami 20-14 in the Sun Bowl.
What a guy. What a life. A good man. Rest easy, Mike Leach. pic.twitter.com/Av0b4sTIOX
— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) December 13, 2022
On October 4, 2014 Connor Holliday broke the NCAA record for passing yards in a game with 734, which has since been tied by Patrick Mahomes, who played under Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech.
Leach named his captain, Jamal Morrow, for coin tosses because of how he performed on the Price is Right. Leach’s reasoning was very sound.
My favorite thing Mike Leach did at Washington State was choose Jamal Morrow to be team captain solely based on his performance on "The Price is Right" pic.twitter.com/uV3I8B6GPg
— Sam Cooper (@SamDCooper) December 13, 2022
Leach would lead the Cougars to their first 11-win season in school history capping off the season with an Alamo Bowl victory against Iowa State. Washington State were co Pac-12 North Champions but missed the conference title game due to a tie breaker with Washington. The Cougars finished ranked tenth.
Leach would finish his Washington State career with a record of 55-47. His 55 wins in eight years 26 more than Washington State had in the prior eight seasons before Leach’s arrival.
Not sure any coach better reflected the fun and uniqueness that is college football than Mike Leach. This is a big loss for the sport. I’ll never tire of watching this clip: pic.twitter.com/8RMe3FqPeO
— Three Year Letterman (@3YearLetterman) December 13, 2022
Leah arrived to Starkville in 2020 and led the Bulldog to their first bowl game win in three seasons. Leach would then go onto having back-to-back winning seasons in 2021 and this past 2022 season.
Vintage Mike Leach… pic.twitter.com/tp34GojHy2
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 13, 2022
Mike Leach, the Intellectual Pirate
Leach was a one-of-a-kind individual. Whether he was talking about hypothetical mascot fights or teaching a class on Insurgent Warfare and Football Strategies, Leach was a person who marched to the beat of his own drum. He gave wedding advice, his thoughts on big foot, how he takes his coffee, how much he hates candy corn and so many more memorable clips.
If you love football you love Mike Leach. His wedding advice is classic. pic.twitter.com/WBjMQPsQe4
— Mike Ruefer (@mikerueferphoto) December 12, 2022
There will never be another one quite like Mike Leach.
A true college football original. pic.twitter.com/ZnpJwMXT2q
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 13, 2022
Mike Leach breaking down a potential Pac-12 mascot fight.
He was one of a kind. RIP pic.twitter.com/KEp1FOnAip
— Mike Beauvais (@MikeBeauvais) December 13, 2022
Compiled a thread of my favorite Mike Leach moments. Hope you all enjoy. RIP Coach. First, his thoughts on candy pic.twitter.com/Ly69VfZnwz
— Connor Schmidling (@CSchmidling) December 13, 2022
Sometime he would talk in circles always coming back to his original point. Leach would instruct his players about pirates and how to swing your sword, always making sure to connect pirates to football, in which he did very well.
He was also the author of Swing Your Sword, which was about being a leader in football and in life. He also co-wrote Geronimo, which was a book about leadership strategies influence by Apache warrior, medicine man, and leader Geronimo.
my all time favorite Mike Leach moment is when he was taking pictures in the stands with fans while his team was in a brawl on the field 😭😭😭 truly one of a kind
— kb (@karinasophia12) December 13, 2022
Leach’s legacy has far greater impacts than the game of football though. Leach will forever go down as one of the most charismatic coaches in sports history with his blatant honesty being tremendously funny. He influenced so many student athletes and fans throughout his time as a coach and the football world will greatly miss Mike Leach.
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