Mike Leach, a two-time national coach of the year and former United States Sports Academy Alumnus of the Year, was recently hired as the head football coach at Mississippi State University.
Leach is known as the mastermind behind the “Air Raid” offense that has put up huge offensive numbers in his head coaching stops and Washington State and Texas Tech and also when he was an assistant coach at Kentucky.
After graduating from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in American studies and earning his Juris Doctor degree from Pepperdine University School of Law – where he originally planned to be an attorney – Leach decided to take a different career path as a football coach. He earned his Master of Sports Science degree in sports coaching from the Academy in 1988. Leach, a native of Cody, Wyo., is the Academy Alumni President and a past winner of the Academy’s Alumnus of the Year Award.
“I had graduated from law school, but I was really interested in sports and coaching,” Leach said. “The Academy was a really efficient degree. You can still have a job while taking all these courses that elevate your knowledge base. I have three degrees and of the ones I have, my Academy degree was the most efficient program as far as learning something, then immediately being able to apply it to what I was doing.
“The Academy really ushered me into coaching and I’ve been doing it ever since. The education prepared me very well as I was able to get education and experience in coaching simultaneously. Ultimately the skills I learned at the Academy helped me in my coaching career. I obviously didn’t go back to practice law and I’m still coaching today.
“I remember the faculty members at the Academy were very sharp. I developed a real closeness with people there. The faculty gave you a lot of one on one time and the interaction was really good.
“I have a lot of respect and admiration for the Academy because I had a great experience. Everything I learned at the Academy I still use all of the time,” he said.
“Getting my degree from the United States Sports Academy has been a huge part of my success.”
Leach began his career as an assistant coach at California Polytechnic State University and worked as an assistant at universities including Oklahoma, Kentucky, Valdosta State, and Iowa Wesleyan.
He eventually landed at the University of Kentucky, where he served as offensive coordinator under head coach Hal Mumme. At Kentucky, Mumme and Leach developed the “Air Raid Offense,” which Leach later utilized as head coach at Texas Tech. Under his leadership, the Red Raiders had an 11-win season in 2008 and nine-win seasons in 2002, 2005 and 2005. The team also led the NCAA in passing yardage four years in a row and his teams produced most of the school’s all-time statistical leaders in passing and receiving.
Leach, 58, arrives in Starkville after eight seasons at the helm at Washington State where he compiled a 55-47 (.539) record and was named the 2018 American Football Coaches Association National Coach of the Year and two-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year (2015, 2018). Leach spearheaded WSU to a school-record six bowl appearances and became the first coach in school history to lead the Cougars to five consecutive bowl games. They also led the nation in passing offense in four out of his last six seasons in charge.
In 2019, a young Cougars squad reached the Cheez-It Bowl while leading the nation in passing offense (437.2). A total of eight WSU players earned All-Pac-12 honors.
The 2018 campaign saw Leach produce one of the finest coaching performances as WSU posted its first 11-win season in school history and a share of the Pac-12 North Division. The Cougars were ranked in the top 13 of each College Football Playoff rankings, including four consecutive weeks at No. 8. WSU capped the season with a win over Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl and finished No. 10 in the Associated Press and Coaches polls. Senior quarterback and Mississippi native Minshew captivated the nation, leading the FBS in passing yards per game (367.6).