Mississippi State hires Mike Leach as new football coach

New Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach greeted fans at the Starkville airport after arriving in Mississippi Thursday afternoon (Photo by Ryan Phillips, DTL)
Daily Times Leader

The Pirate has arrived in Starkville.

Mississippi State has hired Mike Leach to be the school’s new head football coach the school confirmed on Thursday. Leach, who brings with him to MSU more than three decades of coaching experience including 18 seasons as a head coach, comes to the Bulldogs from Washington State.

“Mike Leach is a proven winner who has established a culture of excellence for nearly two decades as a head coach,” MSU director of athletics John Cohen said in a university-released statement. “An offensive genius and two-time national coach of the year, he has a track record of building programs to national prominence with accountability and a blue-collar approach. We are thrilled to welcome him and his family to the Mississippi State family and look forward to watching our football program grow under his leadership.”

Leach will be formally introduced as the MSU coach at a noon press conference today at the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex. The event is open to the public and will be televised by SEC Network.

The 58-year-old Leach is a well-known figure in college football, both for his on-field success and his personality. He has a notable affinity for pirates, thus earning him his nickname. His sometimes outlandish press conferences – addressing humorous topics that often have nothing to do with football – have gone viral on social media through the years.

Leach has also won with frequency on the gridiron. He has a 139-90 career record as a head coach over 10 seasons at Texas Tech, then eight seasons at Washington State. Leach has reached a bowl game in all but two of the seasons in which he has been a head coach.

Leach will now attempt to keep his successful career rolling while wearing maroon and white. The veteran leader is pumped up to do so.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be the head football coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs,” Leach said. “I loved Washington State, but I am excited for the next chapter in the SEC. It’s a privilege to be a part of the MSU family.”

Leach arrived in Starkville around 3:15 p.m. on Thursday. He stepped off the airplane at George M. Bryan Airport with the MSU cheerleaders, band and hundreds of Bulldog fans waiting. Several Mississippi State players were also there to greet Leach, including quarterback Garrett Shrader, defensive lineman Kobe Jones and running back Kylin Hill.

Leach stepped off the airplane, met for a few moments with the players, then made a loop shaking hands, taking photos and signing autographs for fans, who seemingly unanimously had a palpable excitement for the new Mississippi State leader.

It’s a feeling shared by everyone from fans to the president’s chair at MSU.

“I want to commend Athletics Director John Cohen and his staff for conducting a very thorough and true national search,” MSU President Mark Keenum said. “In Coach Mike Leach, that search produced a charismatic leader who has proven he can both win football games at a high level and motivate teams to play up to their potential. I’m excited about the future of our football program.”

Whether or not the excitement surrounding Leach continues will likely hinge on the success of his offense at State. Leach is a mastermind of the air-raid offense. He loves for his team to throw the football. Of the 50 most productive passing yardage seasons in FBS history, 11 came from quarterbacks coached by Leach since his hiring as head coach at Texas Tech before the 2000 season.

Time will tell if Leach can find success through the air in the SEC. For now though, his hiring has certainly brought buzz and national attention to Starkville.