Former Kentucky offensive coordinator, Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach dies at 61


Tribute to Mike Leach. Graphic courtesy of Mississippi State Athletics

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach died late Monday night after complications related to a heart condition.

Leach served as Kentucky football’s offensive coordinator and quarterback coach from 1997-1998.

News first broke on Sunday that Leach had been rushed to the hospital after what was later learned to be a heart attack. His condition continued to worsen throughout the day and into Sunday according to the Clarion Ledger.

Early Tuesday morning it was reported that Leach had died in the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi.

“Coach Mike Leach passed away last night from complications related to a heart condition,” his family said in a statement. “He 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 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.”

Kentucky football put out a statement on Twitter following his passing.

“We’re saddened to learn of the passing of Mike Leach, who served as our Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach from 1997-1998,” Kentucky football tweeted. “We send our deepest condolences to Coach Leach and the (Mississippi State) family.”

Leach got his start in the coaching world at Cal Poly, being the Mustangs’ offensive line coach in 1987. 

He then moved to being linebacker coach for College of the Desert in 1988 and then as head coach of the Pori Bears in the American Football Association of Finland in 1989.

Moving back to the United States, Leach became offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Iowa Wesleyan at the NAIA level under head coach Hal Mumme from 1889-1991.

The duo then moved to Division-2 outfit Valdosta State in 1992 where Leach became offensive coordinator, wide receivers coach and quarterbacks coach.

Leach would stay with Valdosta State, though he would switch to being offensive coordinator and offensive line coach in 1994, until 1996 when he finally moved up to the Division-1 level.

Taking over as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Kentucky in 1997, Leach continued coaching under Mumme with future No. 1 overall draft pick Tim Couch at quarterback.

Leach, a lover of the air raid, broke four NCAA, 42 SEC and 116 school records as Kentucky’s offensive coordinator.

Leaving Kentucky and Mumme, Leach joined Bob Stoops, brother of current Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops, at Oklahoma in 1999 as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Following that season, 11 years after he had last been at the helm of a team in Finland, Leach earned a head coaching position at Texas Tech in 2000 which he held until 2009.

Following a controversy that ended his stint with the Red Raiders, Leach stayed with the sport he loved on the media side of things before accepting the head coaching position at Washington State in 2012.

Leach coached the Cougars to six bowl games in his eight seasons in Pullman before becoming the head coach of the Mississippi Bulldogs, the job he would hold until his final breath.

The Bulldogs never missed a bowl game under Leach, becoming notorious for their air raid offense that Leach had been known for. 

Mississippi State finished the 2022 campaign 8-4, finishing the season ranked No. 22 in the College Football Playoff Rankings, with a trip to the ReliaQuest Bowl against Illinois scheduled for Jan. 2.

Finishing his career with 158 career wins, Leach ranks second amongst active SEC coaches in career wins and fifth amongst all active power-five coaches.

He leaves behind his wife, Sharon, as well as four children, Janeen, Kimberly, Cody and Kiersten, along with the hundreds of athletes who he affected with the work he did in locker rooms and on the field as a coach.