Coaching Legend Mike Leach Dies at 61, Football Community Mourns

Mike Leach

College football coaching legend Mike Leach passed away Monday night following complications from a heart condition. He was 61.

The head coach at Mississippi State was a cherished member of the larger football world and community for decades. Players, fans and the media adored the quotable Leach, who was responsible for masterminding the innovative Air Raid offense, which revolutionized college football.

“A unique, special individual,” said analyst Charles Davis of the 33rd Team. “But the biggest thing was his impact on the game. We see it at every level.”

Leach’s offenses set numerous NCAA records, and his impact can be seen in other Air Raid offenses that went on to have massive success around college football under coaches like Lincoln Riley, Kliff Kingsbury, Sonny Dykes, Dana Holgorson, Mike Gundy, Kevin Sumlin, Phil Longo, and others.

“We just had another Heisman winner come out of another Air Raid offense in Caleb Williams,” said analyst Marvin Lewis of the 33rd Team, “and so I just think so much of what we’re seeing in the National Football League is the passing principles of the Air Raid offense that are so prevalent anytime you put on a game now – at whatever level. And Mike Leach had a lot to do with that.”

In more than 20 years as a Division I head coach for Texas Tech, Washington State and Mississippi State, Leach compiled a 158-107 record, won two Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors and was named 2018 AFCA Coach of the Year by his peers.

On Sunday, Leach was transported to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson following a personal health issue suffered at his home in Starkville. Tuesday morning, Mississippi State announced he had passed.

“Mike was a giving and attentive husband, father and grandfather,” the Leach family said in a statement released Tuesday. “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.”

The Mississippi State football team qualified to play in the ReliaQuest Bowl on Jan. 2, 2023, against the Illinois after Leach led the team to an 8-4 season. The University announced on Sunday that defensive coordinator Zach Arnett would oversee the program in Leach’s absence. However, it remains to be seen if Leach’s passing will impact the school’s decision to participate.

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