The United States Sports Academy is mourning the sudden loss of beloved college football coach and alumnus Mike Leach, who passed away Monday night at age 61 following complications from a heart condition.
A longtime college football coach, Leach was in his third season with the Mississippi State Bulldogs, having compiled a 19-17 record in Starkville. He had served as a college football head coach for 21 seasons, with previous stops at Texas Tech (2000-09) and Washington State (2012-19). Leach was credited as being one of the originators of the high-scoring “Air Raid” passing offense and was also well known for his often eccentric responses to questions asked at news conferences.
Leach earned his Master of Sports Science degree in sports coaching from the Academy in 1988. A native of Cody, Wyo., he was the Academy Alumni President and a past winner of the Academy’s Alumnus of the Year Award.
“Speaking on behalf of the entire Academy family, we were heartbroken to hear the sad news of Coach Mike Leach’s untimely passing,” Academy President and CEO Dr. TJ Rosandich said. “Mike was a true icon, not only in the world of college football with his innovations such as the ‘air raid’ offense, but equally for his persona. You never knew what you were going to get when interviewing Mike. More than that, it was also what people did not see what made him so special. For example, he gave freely of his time to talk to Academy students and alums; something that was uncommon for individuals of his stature. I always looked forward to his visits to the campus and his irreverent sense of humor and all our fellow alums will miss him.”
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 authored two books: a 2011 autobiography, “Swing Your Sword: Leading the Charge in Football and in Life,” that became a New York Times best-seller and “Geronimo: Leadership Strategies of an American Warrior” in 2014. He also taught a five-week course at Washington State in 2019: “Insurgent Warfare and Football Strategies.”