Mike Leach, one of college football’s most distinctive personalities and most innovative offensive minds, died Monday night of heart-related complications, his family announced. He was 61.
Leach had just finished his third season as Mississippi State’s Head Coach and was preparing his team for the ReliaQuest Bowl against Illinois on Jan. 2 in Tampa. He suffered a heart-related medical emergency at his Starkville home Sunday morning before being airlifted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
“Coach Mike Leach passed away (Monday) night from complications related to a heart condition. He 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,” the Leach family said Tuesday in a statement.
The impact, “The Pirate” as he was affectionately called, had on college football is massive. Leach was one of the most intriguing, engaging, quirky, smart and sometimes hilarious coaches in the game.
Leach was regarded as the mastermind behind the Air Raid offense that set records across the country. His stints include Kentucky, Valdosta State, Washington State and Texas Tech.
Leach is survived by his wife, Sharon, his children Janeen, Kim, Cody and Kiersten, and three grandchildren.
Mike Leach. Photo courtsey of Darren Carroll/Sports Illustrated