Jan 2, 2023; Tampa, FL, USA; a logo for former Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Mike Leach was painted on the field for the 2023 ReliaQuest Bowl with Illinois Fighting Illini and Mississippi State Bulldogs at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Miss. St. honors late coach Mike Leach at ReliaQuest Bowl

Mississippi State will wear specially designed helmets in Monday’s ReliaQuest Bowl in tribute to their late head coach, Mike Leach.

Leach died Dec. 12 from a heart complication at age 61. No. 22 Mississippi State (8-4) will meet Illinois (8-4) in the bowl game at Tampa, Fla.

In tribute to Leach, who had an affinity for pirates and lived by the motto “swing your sword,” the Bulldogs will wear a white sticker on the side of their maroon helmets that shows a pirate logo with interlocking swords and the initials “ML.” The university unveiled the helmets on Monday before the game.

The grounds crew at Raymond James Stadium, which hosted the game Sunday between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers, turned around the field for the bowl game and included the word MIKE, with a cowbell replacing the letter I.

In other tributes, the trademark pirate ship at the stadium has been outfitted with a floral arrangement and a photo of Leach. The Illini also will be wearing a helmet decal to honor the coach.

–Field Level Media

Nov 24, 2022; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Mike Leach walks onto the field  after the game against the Ole Miss Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Leach remembered as innovator, entertainer

Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach was remembered Tuesday for his aggressive and innovative offenses and his colorful and eccentric personality.

Leach died Monday night at age 61 from cardiac complications, leaving behind a grieving family and team and an impressive coaching tree that includes the Arizona Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury, TCU’s Sonny Dykes and Southern Cal’s Lincoln Riley.

“There is no way I would be where I am today if not for Mike Leach and everything he taught me about the game,” said Kingsbury, who played quarterback in Leach’s “Air Raid” offense at Texas Tech from 2000-02.

“Truly one of the most innovative offensive minds in football, he was more than a coach. He was a mentor, a friend and one of the most special people I’ve ever met. My heart goes out to Sharon, the Leach family and everyone who had the privilege of knowing and loving him. Our sport was better because of Mike Leach and is far less interesting without him.”

After compiling an 84-43 record with the Red Raiders from 2000-09, Leach went 55-47 at Washington State (2012-19) before joining Mississippi State in 2020. His Bulldogs were 19-17, including 8-4 this season.

Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey said that Leach’s life “touched thousands upon thousands of people through his coaching, leadership, teaching and insightful commentary.”

“We will miss Mike,” Sankey said. “Every conversation with Mike made you think. His humor, depth and point of view continually challenged all of us to think differently and reevaluate our perspectives. His innovative approach to the game contributed to the evolution of college football.”

Leach was a favorite interview for many journalists with his occasionally rambling but always humorous takes on subjects that often had nothing to do with football.

In just one example, he once espoused on which Pac-12 mascot would win in a fight. He said UCLA’s bruin would be “formidable” and Colorado’s buffalo would be “pretty hard to tangle with.” And Arizona State? “You’d have to get one of those Harry Potter activists to read up on how you kill a Sun Devil, because there’s a lot of outside stuff there.”

Leach was known as “The Pirate” for his affinity for the swashbuckling culture, and also due to his daring, take-no-prisoners approach to the game.

“He’s truly a one-of-a-kind,” Washington State athletic director Pat Chun said, per ESPN. “There will never be another Mike Leach to walk this earth or grace the sideline at a college football game.”

“He changed college football,” former Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen said, per ESPN. “He took college football from a very conservative offensive approach where coaches were afraid to make a mistake … I go back to the word fearlessness. He’s not afraid to take risks.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 17, 2022; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA;  Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Mike Leach looks on against the LSU Tigers during the first half at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Passing game pioneer, Mississippi State coach Mike Leach dies at 61

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

Sep 3, 2022; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Mike Leach reacts after a play against the Memphis Tigers during the fourth quarter at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State coach Mike Leach’s condition remains critical

Mississippi State coach Mike Leach is in critical condition in Jackson, Miss., the university confirmed Monday morning.

Leach was hospitalized Sunday after experiencing what the school termed “a personal health issue at his home.”

Leach was transferred from Oktibbeha County Hospital in Starkville to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, approximately 125 miles away.

“Mississippi State University head football coach Mike Leach remains in critical condition at the University of Mississippi Medical Center,” the school said in a statement. “Mike’s family is with him and appreciates the overwhelming expressions of love and support for the coach, but also requests that their family’s privacy be respected at this time. This is the extent of the information that MSU has available regarding Coach Leach’s condition, and the university will make no other comment at this time.”

The Mississippi Clarion Ledger, citing multiple sources, said Leach, 61, suffered a massive heart attack at his home in Starkville. When EMTs arrived, they used a defibrillator machine to restore his normal heart rhythm, per the report.

Sources also told the newspaper that Leach could have suffered seizures with the possibility of brain damage.

Always colorful and opinionated, Leach is in his third season at Mississippi State with a record of 19-17.

Former colleagues and friends alluded to the seriousness of the situation on social media, with Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen, who coached with Leach at Texas Tech from 2000-07, saying in part, “My thoughts are with my mentor” and “I am devastated by today’s news.”

Defensive coordinator Zach Arnett will serve as interim head coach during Leach’s absence.

No. 22 Mississippi State (8-4) is slated to face Illinois (8-4) in the ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 2.

Overall, Leach is 158-107 in 21 seasons at Texas Tech (2000-09), Washington State (2012-19) and Mississippi State.

–Field Level Media

Jul 19, 2022; Atlanta, GA, USA; Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach shown on the stage during SEC Media Days at the College Football Hall of Fame. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Leach on SEC realignment: ‘Let me handle that’

Mississippi State coach Mike Leach said realigning the SEC will be a snap when Texas and Oklahoma arrive in 2025.

“They oughta let me handle that,” Leach said Tuesday at SEC Media Days in Atlanta. “I’ll have that done by lunch. I think it would be brilliant to let me handle it.”

Leach suggested moving Alabama and Auburn to the SEC East and letting Oklahoma and Texas join his Bulldogs in the SEC West.

“You knock those guys off and send them to the East and we have to play Texas and OU, tell me how I’ve lost on that deal,” Leach said. “I have a lot of respect for those guys, but in this conference they can just go ahead and get in line with everybody else.”

Leach, 61, is entering his third season in Starkville, Miss. Mississippi State finished 7-6 last season after going 4-7 in his first year on campus in 2020.

Leach coached against Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12 at Texas Tech from 2000-09.

Never shy about giving an opinion, Leach touched on a wide range of subjects during his time on the dais Tuesday, Topics included the beef between Alabama coach Nick Saban and Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher over name, image and likeness deals, as well as the dance moves of LSU’s Brian Kelly and South Carolina’s Shane Beamer.

Back in May, Saban made a crack that Texas A&M “bought every player on their team.” Fisher insisted the Aggies broke no rules and questioned Saban’s character, with both coaches ultimately receiving reprimands from the SEC.

Leach said the current NIL situation — Saban said his players earned more than $3 million in deals in the past year — is “not sustainable.”

“I think they both kind of illustrate the frustration of how things are right now and it’s not sustainable, so something’s going to change,” Leach said. “We haven’t defined what exactly is an amateur, or a student-athlete, as opposed to a professional, and I think we need to do that. I think there is ways to do it.”

As for dancing coaches, Leach gave Beamer the nod over Kelly after the South Carolina coach’s performance went viral on Tuesday.

“Some of those guys are into this stuff,” Leach said. “I mean, can you imagine that? (Beamer) is definitely up there. Let’s think this through. I don’t know, you’ve got to give Coach Kelly an A for effort. But I do think it was more effort than ability. I don’t know, maybe Beamer. I think Beamer is the guy to beat right now.”

Mississippi State opens the season at home against Memphis on Sept. 3.

–Field Level Media

Mississippi State Bulldogs Head Coach Mike Leach talks to the referee after a turnover by his team to the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the AutoZone Liberty Bowl at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021.


Reports: Mississippi State’s Mike Leach signs extension

Mississippi State and football coach Mike Leach agreed to a two-year extension through the 2025 season, multiple outlets reported.

Leach, 61, completed the first two years of a four-year deal he signed with the Bulldogs in January of 2020. The new agreement boosts his annual compensation from $5 million to $5.5 million, according to reports from the Clarion Ledger and ESPN.

Leach led Mississippi State to a 4-7 record in 2020 and a 7-6 mark in 2021. The Bulldogs beat Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl after his first season and lost to his former employer Texas Tech in the Liberty Bowl last season.

Overall, he owns a 150-103 record in 20 seasons as a head coach at Texas Tech (2000-09), Washington State (2012-19) and Mississippi State.

–Field Level Media

Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Mike Leach looks on during the final minute of the game as Auburn Tigers take on Mississippi State Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. Mississippi State Bulldogs defeated Auburn Tigers 43-34.

Reports: Mississippi State extends Mike Leach through 2025

Mississippi State and its head football coach, Mike Leach, agreed to a two-year contract extension on Tuesday according to multiple reports.

The extension reportedly will keep Leach in Starkville, Miss. through the 2025 season and raise his annual salary to $5.5 million.

Leach, 61, is entering his third season at the helm of the Bulldogs. They went 4-7 in his first season — the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign — and 7-6 last season. In both seasons, Mississippi State went to bowl games, winning the Armed Forces Bowl in 2020 and losing the Liberty Bowl in 2021.

Mississippi State is the third stop for Leach as a head coach. He won 84 games — and never had a losing season — in 10 years at Texas Tech. After a few years away from coaching, he was hired at Washington State in 2012 and went 55-47 in eight seasons, guiding the Cougars to a 2-4 record in bowl games.

Leach was an understudy of Hal Mumme and helped popularize his pass-heavy “Air Raid” offensive attack.

Will Rogers returns as the Bulldogs quarterback this season after finishing second in the SEC in passing yards (4,739) and passing touchdowns (36) last year.

Mississippi State opens its 2022 season at home against Memphis on Sept. 3.

–Field Level Media

Jul 21, 2021; Hoover, Alabama, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Mike Leach speaks to the media during SEC Media Days at Hyatt Regency Birmingham. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Leach ‘would like to see’ 64-team CFP

Mississippi State coach Mike Leach is all for the expansion of the College Football Playoff — he just has a different number of teams in mind than most.

Asked Wednesday during SEC Media Days whether the current proposal of a 12-team model was enough teams, Leach said he preferred 64.

“It’s never enough,” Leach said. “But I’ll tell you what, Dr. (Mark) Keenum, our president, is on that committee so I know they’re in good hands and so I think that part’s outstanding.

“I think 12 teams is a huge step in the right direction. I personally would like to see 64, and you could format it out pretty easily. But I think it’s a huge step in the right direction and I look forward to it.”

It isn’t the first time Leach, known for his eccentric personality and off-topic tangents during press conferences, has spoken of a 64-team football playoff. In one 2012 interview, he called 64 “ideal” and justified it by suggesting the regular season be cut to 10 games.

Leach has remained pro-expansion while other coaches have come out against growing the CFP larger than four. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Tuesday that “I don’t think there’s 12 teams good enough” to deserve the national title.

A subcommittee last month recommended a proposal that would expand the field from four to 12 programs, giving the top four seeds a first-round bye and having teams 5-12 play each other in the first round at home fields rather than neutral sites.

Sixty-four is the current size of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament field, with the men at a similar number in 68.

–Field Level Media

Dec 6, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA;     Washington State Cougars wide receiver Jamire Calvin (6) catches a pass for a first down in the second half of the game against the USC Trojans at United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

WR Jamire Calvin transferring to Mississippi State

Wide receiver Jamire Calvin said he’s transferring to Mississippi State, where he’ll rejoin Mike Leach, his former coach at Washington State.

He announced his decision on social media late Saturday.

Calvin, from Pasadena, Calif., was a four-star recruit in the Class of 2017. He took a medical redshirt in 2019 and has two years of eligibility remaining.

In three seasons with the Cougars, he appeared in 30 games and made 92 catches for 980 yards and five touchdowns.

The 5-foot-10 played two seasons under Leach.

The Bulldogs are scheduled to open the 2021 season on Sept. 4 against Louisiana Tech in Starkville, Miss.

Mississippi State finished 4-7 (3-7 Southeastern Conference) in 2020, which was Leach’s first season with the Bulldogs.

–Field Level Media

Oct 3, 2020; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Mike Leach stands on the sidelines during the first quarter of the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Miss. St. exodus continues as three more players leave

Three more players are departing the Mississippi State football program, coach Mike Leach said Wednesday.

Junior wide receiver Tyrell Shavers, junior defensive end Tre Lawson and freshman Jamari Stewart are the most recent defectors from the program. In all, that makes seven players to leave the Bulldogs in two weeks, joining sophomore quarterbacks Garrett Shrader and Jalen Mayden, freshman offensive lineman Nick Pendley and senior running back Kareem Walker, 247Sports reported.

That does not include running back Kylin Hill, the third-leading rusher in the Southeastern Conference last year, who is rumored to be on his way out of Starkville.

Leach said Wednesday that he believes Hill plans to leave Mississippi State to get ready for the 2021 NFL Draft.

“We wish him the best,” said Leach, who is in his first season leading the Bulldogs.

In three games this season, Hill has 15 carries for 58 yards. He also caught 23 passes for 237 yards and a touchdown. He did not play in the team’s most recent game, a 28-14 home loss to Texas A&M.

Mississippi is 1-3 on the year and is scheduled to play at Alabama on Saturday. Leach said on Wednesday’s coaches teleconference that he would “be surprised if we don’t lose more.”

Mississippi State won its first game, a 44-34 defeat of LSU, but has lost the past three. Leach said after an embarrassing 24-2 loss to Kentucky on Oct. 10 that a roster overhaul could be coming.

“I think we’re going to have to kind of check some of our group and figure out who really wants to play here,” Leach said. “Any malcontents, we’re going to have to purge a couple of those.”

–Field Level Media