Monday evening, Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach passed away, a day after having a heart attack at home. He was 61.
Tuesday morning, the university announced Leach’s passing and praised him as an “innovator, pioneer, and visionary.”
“He was a college football icon, a coaching legend but an even better person,” said interim athletic director Bracky Brett. “We are all the 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.”
What happened to Mike Leach?
Sunday afternoon, the institution said that Leach had been transferred to the (UMMC) University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi, due to a “personal health concern.”
The Clarion-Ledger reported on Monday that Leach suffered a heart attack at his home in Starkville and that EMTs used a defibrillator to restore his cardiac rhythm numerous times. The story, citing unidentified sources, stated that Leach was brought by ambulance to a local hospital before being evacuated by helicopter to a hospital in Jackson, some 125 miles away.
The publication said that Leach “may have experienced seizures with potential brain damage” and described the condition as “dire.”
Shortly after this claim surfaced, the university issued a fresh statement stating that Leach “remains in serious condition” and that his family is with him in Jackson.
Leach was in his third season at Mississippi State at the age of 61. During that span, he went 19-17, with an 8-4 record in 2022. Under Leach, his team’s record improved each season, rising from 4-7 in 2020 to 7-6 in 2021 to 8-4, and maybe 9-1 in 2022.
During bowl preparations, the university on Sunday announced Bulldogs defensive coordinator Zach Arnett as acting coach “until Coach Leach returns.” On Monday, January 2, the 22nd-ranked Bulldogs will play Illinois in the ReliaQuest Bowl.
Mike Leach’s coaching career
Born in Susanville, California, Leach grew up in Cody, Wyoming, and played rugby at BYU.
He began his coaching career in 1987 as the offensive line coach at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. In 1989, he coached briefly in Finland before joining Hal Mumme’s staff at Iowa Wesleyan.
Beginning there, the duo created a high-powered, pass-heavy offence dubbed the “air raid,” which they took to Valdosta State and Kentucky. Leach served as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma in 1999 before being named head coach at Texas Tech in 2000.
Leach spent ten years at Lubbock, where he revitalized the Red Raiders’ program and became one of college football’s most adored characters thanks to his unique perspective on outspokenness. He was also victorious, guiding Texas Tech to an 84-43 record and bowl games each year of his career.
Leach was sacked in December 2009 following charges of maltreatment by Red Raiders player Adam James, and he spent the subsequent years away from the sidelines working on television and radio and publishing a book titled “Swing Your Sword” while notably featured in coaching carousel rumours.
In 2012, he returned to coaching at Washington State, where he led the Cougars to a 55-47 record and six bowl games over the course of eight seasons. Leach moved to the SEC with Mississippi State in 2020, where he went 4-7 in his first season before recording winning records in each of the last three seasons.
Leach’s overall record as a collegiate head coach was 158-107, and he leaves behind a legacy as a leader who made marginal Power 5 institutions important again.