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Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach dies at 61

Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach looks across the field at his team during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Georgia in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. Georgia won 45-19.
AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis
Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach looks across the field at his team during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Georgia in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. Georgia won 45-19.


Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach died on Monday night, following complications related to a heart condition which sent him to the hospital on Sunday. Leach was 61 years old.

His family released a statement on Tuesday which said that Leach's "final act of charity," was participating in organ donation at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

"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. "Thank you for sharing in the joy of our beloved husband and father's life."

The news swept through the college football world on Tuesday morning, resulting in an outpouring of memories and support.

Former Mizzou football coach Gary Pinkel sent his condolences in a social media post. He said, "he had such a unique personality and I enjoyed being around him. I really admired his concepts and feel like he was one of the more influential offensive minds in all of football in the modern era."

Current MU football coach Eli Drinkwitz also sent out a tweet in remembrance of Leach on Tuesday morning.

The Southeastern Conference released a statement following Leach's death, as well. Commissioner Greg Sankey said that the head coach touched thousands of people through his coaching and insightful commentary.

"We will miss Mike," Sankey said in the release. 'Every conversation with Mike made you think. His humor, depth, and point of view continually challenged all of us to think differently and reevaluate our perspectives. His innovative approach to the game contributed to the evolution of college football."

Sankey went on to say that the entire football community will mourn his untimely passing, along with Leach's wife Sharon, their children and grandchildren.

Mississippi State Interim Athletics Director Bracky Brett said that the Bulldog community is "heartbroken and devastated," by the passing of 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," he said.

Leach was in his third season as Mississippi State's head football coach. The team was in the middle of preparations for the Reliaquest Bowl against Illinois on Jan. 2 when he was hospitalized.

Leach was hired in Jan. 2020 and led the Bulldogs to a 19-17 overall record, with bowl appearances in all three of his seasons. His Mississippi State teams took down seven different AP Top 25 opponents, which tied for third most by a Bulldog head coach.

Before moving to Starkville, Leach was the head coach at both Washington State and Texas Tech. He mentored some of the big names in football, including current Jaguars backup quarterback Gardner Minshew, Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury and L.A. Tech head coach Sonny Cumbie.

In his 21 years as a head coach, he complied a 158-107 overall record and led his teams to 19 bowl games, produced seven seasons with at least nine wins, won two conference division titles and became the winningest coach in Texas Tech history.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, a Texas Tech alum, said Leach was a true legend of the game.

Many will remember that Leach helped change and evolve the game of college football with his renowned "Air Raid," offense.

No funeral or memorial arrangements have been announced at this time. Mississippi State did honor him on Tuesday at Davis Wade Stadium.

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Nathalie Jones

Nathalie anchors and reports sports for ABC17. She started working at the station in June 2020.


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