LUBBOCK, Texas (WCIA) – Mississippi State University head football coach Mike Leach died Monday, according to his family in a statement. He was 61.
“We are 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,” Leach’s family said.
University of Illinois head football coach Bret Bielema shared his condolences Tuesday morning, the Illini are set to meet Mississippi State at the ReliaQuest Bowl on Jan. 2 in Tampa, Fl.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Mike Leach’s family. Today is a sad day for college football. We lost a great coach, a great person, and one of the legendary personalities in our sport.
Mike and I built a long friendship after first meeting at the Alamo Bowl in the early 2000s. We shared so many memories over the years. RIP, Mike.Bret Bielema
Josh Whitman, University of Illinois Athletics Director, also issued a statement on behalf of Illinois Athletics, “We are saddened to hear of the passing of Mike Leach. Coach Leach was one of our game’s great innovators and a beloved figure in college football. Our thoughts are with the Leach family, his former players, and everyone with Mississippi State Football.”
Leach was taken on Sunday from Starkville, Mississippi, to the University of Mississippi
Medical Center in Jackson after suffering a “personal health issue,” MSU said.
The Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, reported that Leach suffered a heart attack.
Leach fought through a bout with pneumonia late in this season, coughing uncontrollably at times during news conferences, but seemed to be improving, according to those who worked with him.
Leach was formerly the Texas Tech University head football coach. On Monday, even before official word of his death, Texas Tech Athletics honored Leach on the end zone scoreboard at Jones AT&T Stadium. His image and the words “swing your sword” were displayed on the big screen.
Leach was Red Raider coach from 2000 to 2009. He went for eight seasons at Washington State University and then to MSU in 2020.
Leach succeeded Spike Dykes, who had been the winningest coach in Texas Tech history
before Leach surpassed him. Leach remains the winningest coach in school history.
Leach, the gruff, pioneering and unfiltered college football coach who helped revolutionize the passing game with the Air Raid offense, was in his third season as head coach at Mississippi State.
He was known for his pass-happy offenses, wide-ranging interests – he wrote a book about Native American leader Geronimo, had a passion for pirates, and taught a class about insurgent warfare – and rambling, off-the-cuff news conferences.
Leach’s teams were consistent winners at programs where success did not come easy. In 21 seasons as a head coach at Texas Tech, Washington State and Mississippi State, Leach went 158-107. And his quarterbacks put up massive passing statistics, running a relatively simple offense called the Air Raid that he did not invent but certainly mastered.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.