Mike Leach has passed away at age 61

The following is from Mississippi State’s official press release (see here):

Mississippi State University Head Football Coach Michael Charles “Mike” Leach passed away last night (Monday, Dec. 12) at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi, following complications from a heart condition. He was 61.

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 candor 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. 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,” Keenum said.

MSU Interim Athletics 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,” said Brett. “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.”

Leach, who was named Mississippi State’s 34th head football coach on January 9, 2020, was finishing his third season in Starkville and 21st as a head coach. Forever a college football icon, he leaves an incredible legacy as a husband, father, friend and leader of young men.

The oldest of six siblings, Leach and his wife Sharon shared four children: Janeen, Kimberly, Cody and Kiersten.

Born in Susanville, California to Frank and Sandra Leach, Mike was raised in Cody, Wyoming. After graduating with honors from BYU in 1983 where he played rugby, Leach earned a master’s degree from the U.S. Sports Academy and his Juris Doctor from Pepperdine University, where he graduated in the top one-third of his class.

For nearly four decades, Leach had an unmatched impact on the game of football including thousands of student-athletes, coaches and staff. He was a two-time national coach of the year, three-time Power 5 conference coach of the year and the mastermind behind the NCAA record-setting “Air Raid” offense.

The accomplishments for Leach in his 21 years as a head coach were long and distinguished. A proven winner who established a culture of excellence at every stop of his career, Leach compiled a 158-107 (.596) record, guided his squads to 19 bowl games, produced seven seasons of at least nine victories, captured two conference division titles, became the winningest coach in Texas Tech history and set school records for bowl appearances at both Texas Tech (10) and Washington State (6). During 10 of those 21 seasons, Leach’s passing attack led the FBS – six at Texas Tech and four at Washington State.

One of the most successful coaches in the history of college football, Leach’s 158 career wins as an FBS coach are the second-most among active SEC coaches and the fifth-most among active Power 5 coaches. Of the 50 most productive passing yardage seasons in FBS history, 10 came from quarterbacks coached by Leach since his hiring as head coach at Texas Tech in 2000. That included one season by Kliff Kingsbury, one by B.J. Symons (2003), one by Sonny Cumbie, three by Graham Harrell (2006-08), one by Connor Halliday, one by Luke Falk (2015), one by Gardner Minshew II (2018) and one by Anthony Gordon (2019).

A passionate educator, mentor, historian and lifelong learner, Leach had great admiration for academics. He instilled that in his players, as his teams routinely set records for GPA and graduation rate. A masterful storyteller, Leach authored a New York Times best-selling autobiography in 2011 titled Swing Your Sword: Leading the Charge in Football and in Life. He later wrote Geronimo: Leadership Strategies of an American Warrior in 2014.

Leach built arguably the greatest coaching tree in college football, giving countless coaches their start in the profession. His historic tree includes former and current head coaches Lincoln Riley, Dave Aranda, Sonny Cumbie, Dana Holgorsen, Seth Littrell, Art Briles, Ken Wilson, Neal Brown, Josh Heupel, Eric Morris, Sonny Dykes, Kliff Kingsbury, Ruffin McNeill and assistant coaches Wes Welker, Bill Bedenbaugh, Robert Anae, Alex Grinch, Brandon Jones, and more.

 

credit to Mississippi State Athletics for the image