Beloved College Football Coach Mike Leach Dies After Massive Heart Attack
BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 09: Head coach Mike Leach of the Washington State Cougars stands on the sidelines during their game against the California Golden Bears at California Memorial Stadium on November 09, 2019 in Berkeley, California.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

Mike Leach, the beloved Mississippi State football coach as well known for his homespun wit as his gridiron genius, has died after suffering a massive heart attack.

Leach, who was 61 and in his third year as Mississippi State’s coach, suffered what the university initially described as a “personal health issue,” later reported to be a heart attack, at his home in Starkville on Sunday. He was flown to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, where he died.

“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,” Leach’s family said in a statement. “Thank you for sharing in the joy of our beloved husband and father’s life.”

Leach, who helped develop the “Air Raid” offense while coaching at Texas Tech from 2000-2009, also had a successful stint at Washington State from 2012-2019 before taking on what would become his last job. Under Leach, Mississippi State posted a 19-17 record, including an 8-4 ledger this year.

The Air Raid offense all but abandoned the run, employing four wide receivers and putting immense pressure on defenses. Under Leach’s tutelage, college quarterbacks posted dizzying statistics and one, Tim Couch, became the first payer selected in the 1999 NFL draft.

Leach was known as much for his entertaining post-game press conferences as his offensive creativity. He would engage with reporters about history, politics, and popular culture in sometimes rambling, always entertaining sessions, whether his team won or lost.

“I miss streakers,” he once said after a fan ran onto the field and pulled down his pants during a 2017 Washington State win over Stanford in 2017. After Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, Leach jokingly offered to become his “Secretary of Offense.”

Leach, who offered up his advice on football and life in a 2011 book titled “Swing Your Sword: Leading the Charge in Football and Life,” often came off like a combination of John Madden and Will Rogers, tossing out colloquial quips laden with practical wisdom.

“Well, you’re going to be dead in a hundred years anyway, so live dangerously,” he once said.

Mississippi State President Mark Keenum said Leach made himself an institution at the school in just three seasons.

“Coach Mike Leach cast a tremendous shadow not just over Mississippi State University, but over the entire college football landscape,” Keenum said in a statement. “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.”

Leach, who posted a record of 158-107 over 21 years of coaching, took an unorthodox route to college football. He grew up in Cody, Wyoming, played rugby in college at Brigham Young University, then earned a law degree from Pepperdine University in 1986. In addition to “Swing Your Sword,” Leach co-authored a book on Apache legend Geronimo’s leadership style.

Regarding his own athletic prowess, Leach once joked, “I bordered on great in dodge ball.”

But while he was at BYU, he came fascinated with then-Coach LaVell Edwards and later began his football coaching career at Cal Poly in 1987. Two years later, while serving as an offensive assistant under Hal Mumme at Iowa Wesleyan, he devised his signature, pass-happy Air Raid offense. Leach would follow Mumme to Valdosta State and then the University of Kentucky, where the offense helped turn Couch into the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft.

Leach spent the 1999 season as Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator under coach Bob Stoops, before becoming head coach at Texas Tech, where his perfected offensive scheme put the program on the map. The Red Raiders went 11-2 in 2008, but he was fired a year later after a former player, Adam James, accused him of mistreating him after he suffered a concussion.

Washington State brought him on in 2012 to turn around a moribund program, and Leach obliged, leading the Cougars to a bowl game in his second season winning eight games or more from 2015-2018.

Leach is survived by his wife, Sharon; children Janeen, Kim, Cody, and Kiersten; and three grandchildren.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Beloved College Football Coach Mike Leach Dies After Massive Heart Attack