Mississippi State family mourns passing of Mike Leach

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Mississippi State Athletics

Photo: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Mississippi State University head football coach Michael Charles “Mike” Leach passed away on Monday night at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi, following complications from a heart condition. He was 61.

In a statement, the Leach family said: “Mike was a giving and attentive husband, father and grandfather. 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.”

Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum said: “Coach Mike Leach cast a tremendous shadow not just over Mississippi State University, but over the entire college football landscape. His innovative ‘Air Raid’ offense changed the game. Mike’s keen intellect and unvarnished candor made him one of the nation’s true coaching legends. His passing brings great sadness to our university, to the Southeastern Conference, and to all who loved college football. I will miss Mike’s profound curiosity, his honesty, and his wide-open approach to pursuing excellence in all things.

“Mike’s death also underscores the fragility and uncertainty of our lives. Three weeks ago, Mike and I were together in the locker room celebrating a hard-fought victory in Oxford. Mike Leach truly embraced life and lived in such a manner as to leave no regrets. That’s a worthy legacy. May God bless the Leach family during these days and hours. The prayers of the Bulldog family go with them,” Keenum added.

MSU Interim Athletics Director Bracky Brett said: “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.

“Mike was an innovator, pioneer and visionary. He was a college football icon, a coaching legend but an even better person,” Brett added. “We are all better for having known Mike Leach. The thoughts and prayers of Mississippi State University and the entire Bulldog family are with his wife Sharon, his children and the entire Leach family.”

Leach, who was named Mississippi State’s 34th head football coach on January 9, 2020, was finishing his third season in Starkville and 21st as a head coach. Forever a college football icon, he leaves an incredible legacy as a husband, father, friend and leader of young men.

The oldest of six siblings, Leach and his wife Sharon shared four children: Janeen, Kimberly, Cody and Kiersten.

Born in Susanville, California to Frank and Sandra Leach, Leach was raised in Cody, Wyoming.

After graduating with honors from BYU in 1983 where he played rugby, Leach earned a master’s degree from the U.S. Sports Academy and his Juris Doctor from Pepperdine University, where he graduated in the top one-third of his class.

For nearly four decades, Leach had an unmatched impact on the game of football including thousands of student-athletes, coaches and staff. He was a two-time national coach of the year, three-time Power 5 conference coach of the year and the mastermind behind the NCAA record-setting “Air Raid” offense.

Before becoming head coach at Mississippi State in 2020, Leach also served as head coach at Texas Tech and Washington State.

In his 21 seasons as a head coach, Leach’s teams appeared in a total of 19 bowl games. Seven times his teams recorded nine wins or more in a season, and his career record was 158-107 (.596 winning percentage). 

Leach went 19-17 in his three seasons at Mississippi State, including an 8-4 record this season. The Bulldogs are scheduled to play Illinois in the ReliaQuest Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Jan. 2.

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