My Sportsman: Mike Leach
Never mind that sportsmanship is not a quality often attributed to my Sportsman of the Year.
On the other hand, Leach may be providing opponents with a lesson consistent with the self-reliant ethos of west Texas: It's
In a sport more susceptible than most to conventional thinking, I salute the least conventional mind on the college football landscape. In his ninth season in Lubbock, having finally come up with a better-than-average defense to complement his storied Air Raid offense, Leach is 10-0 and two wins away from a berth in the BCS title game.
It probably helps that he is one of just a handful of Division-I head coaches who didn't play college ball himself. Rather, he played rugby at BYU. (A visitor's casual mention of rugby World Cup last year triggered a lengthy digression on English flyhalf
After earning his law degree at Pepperdine, Leach concluded he was no longer very keen on practicing law. Having long coached football on the side, he made it a vocation, then made stops at Cal Poly, at the College of the Desert, (in Palm Desert, Calif.) and Pori, Finland. Having found a kindred spirit in passing guru
The Big 12 hasn't been the same since. The passing game Leach brought to the plains -- where it could never work, critics insisted, because of, you know,
His philosophy seems less revolutionary than commonsensical and democratic: force the other guy to defend the entire field. Get the ball into the hands of as many players as possible (a tenet whose importance, Leach once told me, became clear to him while coaching Little League). Streamline. From the vast buffet of wonderful offensive plays, choose some you want to be good at, then
Mix in the coach's signature quirks: the vast splits between offensive linemen; a visceral disdain for punts and field-goal attempts; his ability to hold court at great length on subjects ranging from
Befitting a spread disciple, Leach has said he wouldn't mind widening the field by five yards. When I ran that idea past