Pac-12 Football: Mike Leach Named Head Coach at Mississippi State

Jake Curtis

Mike Leach, who helped Washington State become a football program to be reckoned with, has left to become the head coach at Mississippi State, the school announced Thursday.

Leach guided the Cougars for eight seasons, and Washington State went to six bowl games, including the past five years in a row. WSU had won at least eight games four years in a row before slipping to 6-7 this past season, when it lost in the Cheez-It Bowl.

Washington State's best season under Leach was 2018, when the Cougars finished 11-2 and ranked No. 10 in the country.

Cal beat Washington State twice in the past three seasons.

Washington State led the nation in passing offense in four of the past six seasons (2014, 2015, 2018, 2019) and was second in 2017 and third in 2016. Leach had a habit of turning an ordinary quarterbak into a star. Gardner Minshew was one example, and Anthony Gordon led the nation in passing yards by a wide margin this season.

It leaves open the question of whether the Cougars can continue to be a Pac-12 title contender without Leach.

(Click here for a list of coaches who could be Washington State's next head coach.)

(Click here for reaction to Leach's departure in the Spokane Spokesman-Review.)

At Mississippi State, Leach will take over a program that went 6-7 this past season under Joe Moorhead, who was fired on January 3 following a 38-28 loss to Louisville in the Music City Bowl.

Leach formerly coached at Texas Tech, and he was known as much for his outrageous and funny statements as his coaching. He was willing to criticize his players publicly, and videos of his press conferences were widely viewed because of his intriguing and humorous statements.

Leach was 84-43 in 10 seasons at Texas Tech, with nine bowl appearances. He put together a record of 55-47 at WSU for an overall FBS head-coaching mark of 139-90.

Leach is 58 years old and was born in Susanville, California. He is one of the few college head coaches who did not play college football.