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Mike Leach Is Taking The Football-As-War Metaphor To The Classroom

Photo: Christian Petersen (Getty)

People in football love to compare the sport to war. Look at all the shared terminology—“in the trenches,” “field general”—the similar sense of ritual bluster, the contrived partnerships between the NFL and the military, the cynical propagandizing of Pat Tillman, and, of course, Kellen Winslow’s speech about being a “fucking soldier.” A lot of football coaches at the college level take things way too seriously and bellow about honor and sacrifice. Washington State’s Mike Leach has provided a recent and literal example of this phenomenon.

The conspiracy-addled Cougars coach has always been one to speak his mind, even if there’s nothing coherent in it. He’s spent the past month putting together plans to teach a five-part seminar called Insurgent Warfare & Football Strategy with local Republican politician Michael Baumgartner. Leach has long been an acolyte of the whole football-as-war deal, as his pinned tweet refers to Sun Tzu’s influence on the Air Raid offense.

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The course, as outlined by Leach, will attempt to draw connections between offensive innovation in football and guerrilla warfare. Lecture topics will apparently include “Suppressing Rebellion – challenges of counterinsurgency and defending the modern spread offense.” He asked students to submit essays on the wishbone offense and the effectiveness of the British Empire’s uprising suppression tactics in Malaysia. Fun!

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Leach has received support from WSU’s athletic director and president, and while the course hasn’t officially been announced, Leach launched a Twitter account for the seminar Tuesday. I reached out to WSU to learn more about the course, but haven’t heard back yet. If this takes off, maybe next time Leach can have a lecture about Elliott Abrams, Jon Gruden, and the temptation of hiring a retread.

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