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Mike Leach Dead at 61; Coach at Texas Tech History as Family ‘Shares Joy’

Mike Leach, the popular former Texas Tech coach, has passed away.
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Mike Leach, the former Texas Tech Red Raiders football coach, has passed away at the age of 61.

A statement from Mississippi State, where he was most recently employed:

Mississippi State University Head Football Coach Michael Charles "Mike" Leach passed away last night (Monday, Dec. 12) at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi, following complications from a heart condition. He was 61.

In a statement, the Leach family said: "Mike 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 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. Thank you for sharing in the joy of our beloved husband and father's life." 

The Bulldogs coach was transported to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson on Sunday after experiencing a "personal health issue.

As the Bulldogs prepare for the ReliaQuest Bowl, MSU defensive coordinator Zach Arnett has been named interim coach.

Leach was the architect of the "Air Raid" offense, a scheme that has set numerous college football offensive records. His coaching tree is recognizable to anyone who follows college football, including USC coach Lincoln Riley, former Red Raiders and current Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury, and Houston coach Dana Holgorsen.

Leach joined Texas Tech as head coach in 2000 after one season as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in Oklahoma under Bob Stoops.

The Leach-led Red Raiders finished with three nine-win seasons and an 11-win season. Texas Tech swept its in-state Big 12 rivals Baylor, Texas, and Texas A&M in 2002 then beat Clemson 55-15 in the Tangerine Bowl. It was the Red Raiders' first post-season win since 1995.

In 2006, Leach and the Red Raiders started the season 6-0 - their best start since 1998. Behind Leach's "Air Raid" offense Tech led the NCAA in passing yardage four years in a row.

Leach also found success with a number of different quarterbacks. 

With Kingsbury under center for three seasons, Leach and Tech found huge success. Kingsbury broke the NCAA record for completions in a career. When he was replaced by B.J. Symons, Symons threw for the most passing yards in a season in NCAA history. 

Then came Sonny Cumbie, who led the Red Raiders to an upset of then-No. 4 Cal in the Holiday Bowl. Cody Hodges was next and led the NCAA in passing. Graham Harrell was the first non-senior starter since Kingsbury, and regardless of a slow start in 2006, improved enough during the season to lead a record-setting comeback over Minnesota. Harrell also set NCAA records for passes completed in a season and career.

Under Leach's offense, Tech became known as a team that could score quickly and often, sometimes resulting in remarkable comebacks. 

In 2004, a 21-0 TCU lead late in the second quarter turned into a 70-35 win for the Red Raiders. Later that same season, Tech beat Nebraska 70-10, the most points the Cornhuskers had ever given up in their history. 

In 2005, a K-State 13-10 second quarter lead became a 59-20 Tech victory. Also in 2005, a 14-10 Red Raiders lead over Texas A&M blossomed into a 56-17 Raiders rout. 

By the end of the 2008 season, Leach had posted a 76-39 record. At 5-4 in bowl games, he's the all-time winningest coach in postseason play in school history.

When you have an active personality like Leach's, controversy is bound to follow at some point. 

Leach stirred up the college football world in a post-game presser in 2007 following a tough loss to Texas. Mentioning what he thought were bad calls, Leach speculated that the officials may have favored the Longhorns either because the lead official was an Austin resident, they were incompetent, or because the Big 12 wanted Texas to appear in a BCS bowl game instead of Tech.

Leach received a $10,000 fine, the largest at the time in Big 12 history.

The 2009 season was bittersweet for Leach and the university. On Oct. 31, Tech beat Kansas. With that win, Leach tied Spike Dykes as the all-time winningest coach in Texas Tech history. On Nov. 21, Leach passed Dykes by virtue of a win over the Sooners.

Later that season, things took an ugly turn in the Leach-Texas Tech relationship.

On Dec. 28, Leach was given an indefinite suspension by the university pending an investigation of the alleged inappropriate treatment of a player, Adam James. James is the son of former SMU and Patriots running back Craig James, who also served as an ESPN college football analyst at the time.

Adam James suffered a concussion on Dec. 16, and the family claims Leach ordered him to stand in an equipment room adjacent to the Red Raiders' practice facility. 

Leach and his attorney disputed the events reported by the university and claimed James had been treated reasonably. Leach claimed the allegations by the James family stemmed from the desire for increased playing time for the wide receiver.

Leach was fired on Dec. 30 after refusing to apologize to James and his family. Leach brought a lawsuit against the school for wrongful termination, but in 2011 the lawsuit was dropped.

Leach went on to coach at Washinton State from 2012-2019 then joined the SEC and Mississippi State in 2020. 

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