Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach died on Monday at the age of 61, the university has announced.
Leach passed away at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi, due to complications from a heart condition.
In a statement, the Leach family said: “Mike was a giving and attentive husband, father and grandfather. 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.”
Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum said: “Coach Mike Leach cast a tremendous shadow not just over Mississippi State University, but over the entire college football landscape.
“His innovative ‘Air Raid’ offense changed the game. Mike’s keen intellect and unvarnished candour 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.
“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 [over rivals Ole Miss].
I was in 1st grade when Graham threw the ball to Crabtree against Texas. Thank you for giving me a chance as a 17 year old. From Wazzu, to Mississippi State I will never forget everything you taught me and the relationship we had. I will see you again someday coach.
— Will Rogers (@Wrogers__2)
“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 is best known as one of the pioneers of the ‘Air Raid’ offense, an aggressive and potent attack that he developed as an assistant to Hal Mumme at Iowa Wesleyan, Valdosta State and Kentucky, whose quarterback Tim Couch became a number one overall pick of the Cleveland Browns in 1999 after excelling in the system.
He moved on to Oklahoma as an assistant Bob Stoops in 1999 and his success in transforming their offense led him to be appointed as Texas Tech head coach.
Leach spent 10 years at Texas Tech, where he never had a losing season. His 84 wins remain the most in program history and he set the record for bowl game appearances with the Red Raiders (10).
He was hired by Washington State in 2012, going 55-47 with the Cougars and leading them to a program record six bowl game appearances. After going 4-7 in his first year at Mississippi State, he guided the Bulldogs to back-to-back winning seasons, including an 8-4 record in the 2022 regular season. The Bulldogs are due to face Illinois in the ReliaQuest Bowl on January 2.
Leach went 158-107 in his head coaching career, reaching 19 bowl games and delivering seven seasons of at least nine victories and two conference division titles. His passing attack led the FBS – the highest level of college football – in 10 of his 21 seasons as a head coach, six at Texas Tech and four at Washington State.
His irreverent personality, which saw sessions with the media feature long tangents on everything from weddings and Halloween candy to which Pac-12 mascot would win in a fight, made Leach one of the most popular coaches in college football.
Mississippi State athletic director Bracky Brett said: “We are heartbroken and devastated by the passing of Mike Leach. 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.
“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.”