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MSU Bulldog family, college football community mourns the death of Coach Mike Leach

Mississippi State University Head Football Coach Michael Charles “Mike” Leach passed away 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 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 said.

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.

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.

Leach compiled a 158-107 (.596) record, guided his squads to 19 bowl games, produced seven seasons of at least nine victories, captured two conference division titles, became the winningest coach in Texas Tech history and set school records for bowl appearances at both Texas Tech (10) and Washington State (6). During 10 of those 21 seasons, Leach’s passing attack led the FBS – six at Texas Tech and four at Washington State.

One of the most successful coaches in the history of college football, 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. Of the 50 most productive passing yardage seasons in FBS history, 10 came from quarterbacks coached by Leach since his hiring as head coach at Texas Tech in 2000. That included one season by Kliff Kingsbury, one by B.J. Symons (2003), one by Sonny Cumbie, three by Graham Harrell (2006-08), one by Connor Halliday, one by Luke Falk (2015), one by Gardner Minshew II (2018) and one by Anthony Gordon (2019).

Leach began his coaching career in 1987 as an assistant at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo before coaching stops at College of the Desert in 1988 and as a head coach in the European Football League in Pori, Finland, in 1989.

Leach arrived in Starkville on January 9, 2020, as Mississippi State’s 34th head football coach. He led the Bulldogs to a 19-17 record, including an 8-4 mark in 2022, and bowl appearances in all three seasons. Leach’s offense led the SEC passing in each of the last two seasons. The Bulldogs defeated seven AP Top 25 opponents during Leach’s MSU tenure, which tied for third most by a Bulldog head coach. Leach coached MSU to its two largest comebacks in program history in 2021.

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