College football’s most-beloved pirate, Mike Leach, died Monday night at age 61 following complications from a heart condition. Leach was a longtime high-level-conference head coach, starting with 10 seasons at Texas Tech, and eight at the helm of Washington State, before spending his last three at Mississippi State. The university confirmed Leach had suffered a “personal health issue” at his home on Sunday and remained in critical condition Monday morning.
Leach can be seen leading a Bulldogs practice on Saturday prepping for the ReliaQuest Bowl against Illinois on Jan. 2 in photos posted to social media.
Mississippi State defensive coordinator Zach Arnett was named the interim coach of the Bulldogs on Sunday. Long-term plans for the head-coaching vacancy haven’t been announced as the unique challenges of a sitting college football head coach passing away are still in their early stages. Leach was the second active college football head coach to die over the last few days as Highland Community College’s Jared Powers passed unexpectedly on Saturday.
“Mike was a giving and attentive husband, father and grandfather. He was able to participate in organ donation at (University of Mississippi Medical Center) as a final act of charity,” the Leach family said in a statement to Mississippi State. “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.”
Starting in 1989, Leach spent 10 seasons as an offensive coordinator under Hal Mumme where the duo set the foundation for the air raid offense. Those explosive spread offenses worked at three schools — Iowa Wesleyan, Valdosta State, and Kentucky. Leach led his teams to bowl appearances in all but two seasons as a head coach and garnered an overall record of 158-107. Leach is still the winningest coach in Texas Tech football history.
Fellow coaches and other sports figures paid tribute to Leach on social media.