So many memories from Coach Leach, both on and off the field. He will be remembered as the quirky, witty genius that helped usher college football into the Air Raid Era.
Mike Leach was a pioneer, a man larger than football. His main focus was on the field and the Air Raid offense, but his life off the field was just as memorable. In 1989, he joined Hal Mumme’s staff at Iowa Wesleyan College, where they crafted and concocted the now-famous Air Raid offense. Leach moved with Mumme from Iowa Wesleyan to Division 2 Valdosta State and then to SEC school Kentucky. The pair helped groom quarterback Tim Couch into the top NFL Draft pick in 1999.
Leach moved on to Oklahoma in 1999 without Humme by his side. Oklahoma, who long ran the wishbone offense, wanted to use Leach’s modern offense to win a National Championship. After a 7-5 season, Leach left Norman to become the Head Coach at Texas Tech.
Leach installed the Air Raid offense breaking countless NCAA records and quickly became a household name across not only West Texas but the nation.
Not only did the Air Raid become nationally relevant, but Texas Tech Football also became nationally relevant for the first time. While not always liked by his superiors while at Texas Tech, Mike Leach became the face of Texas Tech Football. He helped bring players such as Michael Crabtree, Kliff Kingsbury, Graham Harrell and Wes Welker into the national spotlight.
Leach picked up winning season after winning season. The Red Raiders’ best season came in 2008 when the Red Raiders finished 11-2 and defeated No. 1 Texas on a last-second pitch & catch from Graham Harrell to Michael Crabtree.
While Leach’s career at Texas Tech was cut short, his impact was not. Texas Tech had many excellent coaches before him, but Mike Leach was the first to put Texas Tech on the map. Leach’s 84 wins as coach at Texas Tech is the most all-time and a record that won’t be broken anytime soon.
His impact has been felt in Lubbock and across the nation, as his coaching tree has helped usher college football into the pass-first era.
Dana Holgerson, who coached with Leach at Valdosta State as well, was Leach’s offensive coordinator for seven seasons in Lubbock.
David Aranda was a graduate assistant for Leach in the early 2000s.
Seth Littrell and Josh Heupel played quarterback for Leach at Oklahoma, and Littrell went on to be his running backs coach in Lubbock for two seasons.
Lincoln Riley walked on to Leach’s squad before moving on to coaching for Leach for six seasons.
Kliff Kingsbury was Leach’s first Air Raid quarterback and went on to coach the Red Raiders before moving on to the NFL.
Sonny Dykes was Leach’s offensive coordinator for many seasons in Lubbock.
There are many more. I could go on listing Leach’s impact on the coaching world all day.
Coach Leach was often referred to as a national treasure, and today that is what we lost.
Millions across the world will sorely miss his smile, his wit, and his genius.