Mike Leach died Monday night following complications from a heart condition, his family said Tuesday. He was 61.
Leach, an innovate offensive mind who was in his third season as head coach at Mississippi State, was hospitalized in Starkville after a massive heart attack on Sunday and later transferred to University Medical Center in Jackson, Miss.
“Mike was a giving and attentive husband, father and grandfather,” the family said in a statement. “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.”
From Iowa Wesleyan to Kentucky with Hal Mumme, Leach led historically productive passing offenses with multiple-receiver formations and shotgun passing that amplified pressure on defenses who rarely found a consistent counter.
Leach ascended to his most prominent assistant coaching role when he was named offensive coordinator at Oklahoma (1999) before he became a head coach.
He introduced spread passing game concepts labeled “the Air Raid” and popularized the system as a record-smashing head coach at Texas Tech. The fast-break style consistently made Leach’s offenses among the most productive in the country. His passing offense ranked first in the FBS 10 times in 21 total seasons as a head coach: six at Texas Tech and four at Washington State.
“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,” MSU interim athletics director Bracky Brett said Tuesday.
“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.”
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.
Leach was in his third season at Mississippi State with a record of 19-17. He set records for bowl appearances as Washington State (six) and Texas Tech (10).
Defensive coordinator Zach Arnett was named interim head coach. The Leach coaching tree includes many current and former head coaches including former Texas Tech pupil and quarterback Kliff Kingsbury, Southern California head coach Lincoln Riley, Dave Aranda, Sonny Cumbie, Dana Holgorsen, Seth Littrell, Art Briles, Ken Wilson, Neal Brown, Josh Heupel, Eric Morris, Sonny Dykes and Ruffin McNeill.
No. 22 Mississippi State (8-4) is slated to face Illinois (8-4) in the ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 2.
Leach was 158-107 in 21 seasons at Texas Tech (2000-09), Washington State (2012-19) and Mississippi State.
He is survived by his wife, Sharon, and their four children.
–Field Level Media