Longtime College Football Coach And 2-Time National Coach Of The Year Dies At 61
“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,” Leach’s family said in a statement. “Thank you for sharing in the joy of our beloved husband and father’s life.”
The day before he died, Mississippi State had described Leach’s falling ill as a “personal health issue” when he had to be airlifted to a medical center about 125 miles from the university. He was at practice just the day before, so this came as a shock to people who knew him.
Though Leach had mentioned that he had pneumonia during the season, he said he had been feeling better, so people were shocked at how quickly he declined.
Leach began his football coaching career in 1987. He was at Mississippi State coaching the Bulldogs(who hold a 19-17 record) for three years. He was previously at Texas Tech and Washington State, where he was the AFCA national coach of the year in 2018.
In the news of his passing, the president of the university, Mark E. Keenum, shared his statement and how much of an impact Leach left throughout his career. He talked of his unique Air Raid offenses, and gave nod to his quirky personality he was known for as a head coach.
“Coach Mike Leach cast a tremendous shadow not just over Mississippi State University, but over the entire college football landscape,” he said. “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.”
In Leach’s quick turnaround of health, Keenum also talked about how uncertain life can be. “Mike’s death also underscores the fragility and uncertainty of our lives,” he continued. “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.”
He’ll be sorely missed by his colleagues as well as the players he’s had an impact on, and of course, his family. He’s survived by his wife, Sharon; children Janeen, Kim, Cody and Kiersten; and three grandchildren.