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Looking at Mike Leach’s legacy on college football

The head coach changed the game on the field with his revolutionary offense, and won at places where that’s been difficult for others.

Arkansas v Mississippi State Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach died on Monday night after suffering a heart attack earlier in the day. He was 61 years old.

Leach had been in the college football world since 1987. He began his career as an assistant at Cal Poly and moved to an offensive coordinator position at Iowa Wesleyan under Hal Mumme before heading to Valdosta State and Kentucky at Mumme’s side. He stopped by Oklahoma in 1999, and has been a head coach ever since, spending 10 seasons at Texas Tech and eight at Washington State before moving to Starkville. He had just finished his third year as MSU’s head coach.

Leach’s legacy is spread all over the sport. His role in the development of the air raid offense was incredibly significant, but his impact is perhaps most visible in the active coaching tree throughout the sport made up of former Leach assistants.

One of the most prominent current coaches who got his start under Leach is USC HC Lincoln Riley, who played for Leach at Texas Tech before coming on as a graduate assistant and slowly making his way up the ranks during Leach’s tenure. When Riley became the head coach of Oklahoma, he was the youngest HC in FBS.

Baylor head coach Dave Aranda also got his start in Division I under Leach at Texas Tech as a graduate assistant. TCU head coach Sonny Dykes, who is about to take the Horned Frogs to the College Football Playoff in his first year there, worked under Leach at Tech from 2000 to 2006.

Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Cumbie was at Texas Tech toward the end of Leach’s tenure there, and Houston coach Dana Holgorsen was with Leach at both Valdosta State and Tech. Arizona Cardinals HC Kliff Kingsbury played under Leach and Holgorsen and went on to begin his coaching career at Houston with Holgorsen.

Recently-fired North Texas coach Seth Littrell and disgraced former Baylor HC Art Briles also worked under Leach at Texas Tech in the 2000s. Nevada’s Ken Wilson worked with Leach at Washington State, NC State’s Ruffin McNeill was an assistant head coach in Lubbock, and Washington State offensive coordinator Eric Morris played and coached under Leach.

Army offensive coordinator Tony Franklin and NC offensive coordinator Robert Anae each have a spot on the tree. Leach coached Tennessee’s Josh Heupel and West Virginia’s Neal Brown during his time as an offensive coordinator as well.