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Mississippi State announces passing of head coach Mike Leach

Unfathomably sad.

NCAA Football: SEC Media Days Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

What had been feared since Sunday came true overnight — Mike Leach has passed away at age 61. Mississippi State confirmed the news on Tuesday morning.

“We are heartbroken and devastated by the passing of Mike Leach,” MSU interim athletics director Bracky Brett said. “College football lost one of its most beloved figures today, but his legacy will last forever. Mike’s energetic personality, influential presence and extraordinary leadership touched millions of athletes, students, coaches, fans, family and friends for decades.

”Mike was an innovator, pioneer and visionary. He was a college football icon, a coaching legend but an even better person. We are all better for having known Mike Leach. The thoughts and prayers of Mississippi State University and the entire Bulldog family are with his wife Sharon, his children and the entire Leach family.”

Leach reportedly suffered a heart attack on Sunday and was largely unresponsive after arriving at the hospital.

One of the most beloved figures in the history of college football, Leach was known for his high-powered air raid offense. His concepts truly did change the game over the last 25 years, beginning with his time at Kentucky and Oklahoma as offensive coordinator. Leach then took the head job at Texas Tech where he posted an 84-43 record. He built up a struggling Washington State program from 2012 to 2019 before finishing his career at Mississippi State.

With the Bulldogs, Leach was going in the right direction. He built from a 4-7 record in 2020, going 7-6 in 2021 and 8-4 in 2022.

Even more than his on-field success, Leach will be remembered for his big personality. He was alway ready to speak, and you never really knew which direction the conversation was going to go. From wedding advice to halloween candy — all you had to do was tee him up and enjoy the show.

Of course, Leach nearly became the head coach at Tennessee during the infamous 2017 coaching search. Former AD John Currie met with Leach in California, but Currie was pulled off of the job before he could make the hire.

Josh Heupel actually played for Leach for one season in Norman, and Leach’s impact can be seen in the Tennessee system today.

“He’s definitely got some things that look familiar,” Leach said of Heupel’s attack earlier this year. “There’s some things that look familiar. I can think of a play in particular that we ran back in the day. He’s got his quarterback (Hendon Hooker) running that play better than he ran it.”

Heupel will now be one of a number of current coaches to build off of Leach’s legacy. Others include Lincoln Riley, Sonny Dykes, Kliff Kingsbury and several more.

Mississippi State has named defensive coordinator Zach Arnett the interim head coach.

One thing is for sure — there will never be another Mike Leach. What an incredibly sad day for our sport.