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Mike Leach swashbuckled away from Washington State to become new Mississippi State football coach

SHARE Mike Leach swashbuckled away from Washington State to become new Mississippi State football coach

Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach and Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham shake hands after Utah’s 38-13 win at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Pac-12 is down another head coach.

The eccentric (and pirate loving) Mike Leach was named Mississippi State’s new head coach Thursday and replaces Joe Moorhead, news first reported by Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel. Moorhead was fired Jan. 3 following the team’s 38-28 loss to Louisville in the Music City Bowl that dropped the Bulldogs’ record to 6-7. 

Leach coached the past eight seasons at Washington State, where he compiled a 55-47 record, including a 36-36 mark in Pac-12 play and a 2-4 record in bowl games.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be the head football coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs,” Leach said in a school release. “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, and we look forward to getting down to Starkville shortly.”

Mississippi State football’s Twitter profile shared a video highlighting Leach’s career. 

Like Mississippi State, Washington State finished the 2019 season with a 6-7 mark, including a 31-21 loss to Air Force in the Cheez-It Bowl. 

Employing the Air Raid offense, Leach led Washington State to a school-record 11 wins in the 2018 season, culminating in a 28-26 win over Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl and a No. 10 finish in both the Associated Press and Coaches polls.

He was named the 2018 American Football Coaches Association National Coach of the Year and twice earned Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors (2015, 2018). Washington State’s six bowl appearances under Leach is a school record and he became the first coach in school history to lead them to five straight postseason games.

The Cougars led the country in passing four of his final six seasons in Pullman, Washington.

“Mike Leach is a proven winner who has established a culture of excellence for nearly two decades as a head coach,” Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen said in a school release. “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.”

Prior to Washington State, Leach, a BYU graduate, was the head coach at Texas Tech from 2000-09, where he led the Red Raiders to an 84-43 record and the postseason every year. He’s also served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Oklahoma (1999) and Kentucky (1997-98).

In December, Washington’s Chris Petersen announced he was stepping down as head coach and assuming a leadership advisory role in the university’s athletic program. Jimmy Lake, the Huskies’ defensive coordinator, was named as Petersen’s replacement.