Mississippi State hires Mike Leach away from Washington State

Mike Leach-Mississippi State Bulldogs-Eli Drinkwitz-Craig James-Texas Tech Red Raiders football-

MajorWager's Brian Edwards thinks Mississippi State hit a home run with its hire of Washington State's Mike Leach.

Life in the Magnolia State is going to be a lot more fun over the next few years.

After Ole Miss made a splash hire last month and named Lane Kiffin as its next head coach, Mississippi State countered by firing Joe Moorhead after two seasons.

Just as this space suggested six days ago, the Bulldogs swung for the fences and hit a home run by hiring Mike Leach away from Washington State earlier today. In fact, this space advised Arkansas and Missouri to pursue Leach last month, but those schools went in different directions.

If you’ve perused Twitter or heard television and/or radio interviews in the last couple of hours since the hire was announced, you might have caught multiple knuckleheads pouring water on this fire of a hire.

Those doing so are comical (or moronic, whichever you prefer!).

One noted SEC scribe who shall remain nameless pointed out that Leach “only” averaged going one game over .500 during his eight-year tenure at Washington State.

Well, when you inherit a program that’s located in Pullman and has produced records of 2-11, 1-11, 2-10 and 4-8 in the four previous seasons, it might take a minute to turn things around.

Leach certainly did that. Hell, he went to a bowl game in Year 2. Year 1 and Year 3 ended with 3-9 records.

Since then, however, Leach has led the Cougars to five straight bowl bids. He went 9-4, 8-5, 9-4, 11-2 and 6-7.

Let’s also point out that this was at a time when in-state rival Washington was thriving with the one of the nation’s premier head coaches in Chris Petersen.

Leach took Washington State to the postseason six times in eight years, going 55-47 overall and 36-36 in league play. But in the past five seasons, Leach compiled a 43-22 overall record and a 29-16 mark in Pac-12 action.

Before scoring the Wazzu gig, Leach spent 10 seasons at another Power Five outpost, Texas Tech. He guided the Red Raiders to 10 consecutive bowl games, winning at least seven games every year and eight or more in his final eight campaigns.

Leach finished 84-43 overall at Texas Tech, where his dismissal was controversial and due in large part to the actions of Craig James, who is one of the least likable human beings on the planet.

“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, and we look forward to getting down to Starkville shortly.”

He has won nine or more games seven times in his 18 seasons as a head coach at programs that aren’t exactly pigskin juggernauts. The 58-year-old Leach was the Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2008 and the Pac-12 Coach of the Year in 2015 and ’18.

As he arrives in Starkville, where he’ll be introduced at a presser Friday afternoon, Leach walks into a program that’s been to the SEC Championship Game only once since its inception in 1992.

The Bulldogs have losing records in the all-time series against every SEC school not named Texas A&M or Vanderbilt. They’re 13-7-2 against the Commodores and 7-6 versus the Aggies.

Leach has won 11 games twice, going 11-2 at Texas Tech in 2008 and 11-2 at Washington State in 2018. Since the start of MSU’s program in 1895, it has never won 11 games.

The Bulldogs have won 10 games three times — in 1940, 1999 and 2014. They’ve won nine games five times, accomplishing that in 1974, 1980, 2010, 2015 and 2017.

In other words, Leach should feel right at home. He takes over a job with a high degree of difficulty, one that’s located in the SEC’s smallest town.

But if we’ve learned anything about Leach over the last two decades, it’s that he can he can build a perennial Top-20 program at any location. Whether it’s West Texas, the middle of nowhere in Washington or in the sticks of The ‘Sip, the dude wins football games.

Even better, he does it with flair. He plays a fun brand of football and scores points in bunches with his Air-Raid attack. He’s hilarious, a walking sound byte and a solid Twitter follow. Speaking of, the SEC media boys are in heaven with Kiffin and Leach, who are poised to do battle on the recruiting trail, on social media and at many Egg Bowls to come.

I’m still baffled that Arkansas and Missouri couldn’t get this done. The Razorbacks reportedly had conversations with Leach, but those didn’t lead to him leaving Pullman for the Ozarks. Instead, the Razorbacks and Tigers hired new coaches with one combined year of head-coaching experience (at a Sun Belt school, although Eli Drinkwitz did acquit himself well with a 12-1 record at Appalachian State).

What exactly do the Leach haters have in their repertoire? He cusses too much? Sure, you can have that one. He didn’t bow down to James and kiss asses galore to save his job in Lubbock? Okay, I don’t have a problem with that.

Leach is a bit peculiar? No doubt about it! It’s not every head coach that’ll go on a 10-minute rant about nearly any topic, including which Pac-12 mascot would be the most dangerous in fights with each other.

Critics can always find something to create a negative narrative, and there seems to be plenty of those out there today in regards to Leach.

All I know is this: If I was a Mississippi State football fan, this would be one of the greatest days of my life. This is going to be pure fun for everybody to watch, especially fans of the Bulldogs.

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