Concerns over Leach’s health began to surface on Sunday when the school released out a statement indicating that the head coach experienced a personal health issue and had been transferred to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, MS. Ross Reily of The Clarion-Ledger would later report on Monday that Leach had collapsed in his home in Starkville, MS, after suffering a massive heart attack. He was stabilized at Oktibbeha County Hospital before being helicoptered to UMMC, where he was reported to be in critical condition.
Leach’s tragic and unexpected death is a major loss to the college football world as he was recognized as one of the biggest innovators and colorful personalities of the sport in recent memory. Learning under legendary coaches LaVell Edwards and Hal Mumme, Leach perfected and mastered the pass-happy “Air Raid” offense and became synonymous with the system. After helping develop future No. 1 overall pick Tim Couch as an offensive coordinator at Kentucky, he began scored his first head coaching job at Texas Tech in 2000 and maintained a consistent winner in Lubbock, TX.
He’d continue his success in later stops at Washington State and Mississippi State, posting a 158-107 throughout his career. During his run, he endeared himself to the college football world with his quirky personality, spending many interviews veering off topic to talk about things like his affinity for pirates. Along the way, he developed a large coaching tree of Air Raid disciples where former assistant coaches such as Lincoln Riley, Dana Holgorsen, and Sonny Dykes would go on to have major success across the country as head coaches.
His coaching tenure wasn’t without controversy either, the biggest one being the alleged inappropriate treatment of Adam James in 2009 that led to his firing at Texas Tech. Prior to his first season at Mississippi State, Leach tweeted a meme of a women knitting a noose, dredging up memories of racial violence in the state’s history. He would later apologize for the tweet.
Nevertheless, scores of coaches, players, and media members from the college football world publicly offered prayers and support for his family following the news of his health condition on Sunday.