STARKVILLE, Miss. - The "pirate" is headed to Starkvegas. CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd reports that Mississippi State will hire Mike Leach to be the next head coach of the Bulldogs. Leach will replace former coach Joe Moorhead, who was fired after just two seasons with the program.
Leach comes to Starkville with a proven track record of success at smaller-profile Power Five programs. He posted a 55-47 record as the head coach at Washington State from 2012-19. That included an 11-2 season in 2018 and nine-win seasons in 2015 and 2017. He led the Cougars to five straight bowl games, including an Alamo Bowl win over Iowa State in 2018 that earned the Cougars a No. 10 ranking in the final AP Top 25 poll.
He was the head coach at Texas Tech prior to his time in Pullman, where he posted an 84-43 record from 2000-09. He led the Red Raiders to an 11-2 record and a Cotton Bowl appearance in 2008, finished ranked five separate times and made a bowl game in all 10 of his seasons with the program.
Leach has been connected to other jobs in recent years, including SEC openings. There were reports that former Tennessee athletic director John Currie was on the verge of hiring Leach away from Washington State for the Tennessee job after the Greg Schiano fiasco, but Currie lost his job first and Phil Fulmer wound up hiring Jeremy Pruitt. A move to Starkville might be a better fit for Leach's profile, however. While Leach got his first taste of major college football as an assistant at Kentucky, and spent time as an offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, his head coaching career has been spent at smaller schools in Power Five conferences. In that sense, Starkville is similar to Lubbock (Texas Tech) and Pullman (Washington State). What will be different this time is the size of the spotlight on Leach.
Every SEC gig is in the spotlight, no matter the town it's located in.
It will also be interesting to see how Leach's approach works in the SEC. Ironically enough, he enters the conference at a time where he won't be the only coach slinging the ball all over the field. We've seen offenses like Alabama and LSU adopt more pass-heavy attacks, though no offense likes throwing the ball more often than Leach. Washington State's offense led the nation in passing rate (how often it passes instead of runs) during each of Leach's eight seasons with the Cougars, usually throwing the ball more than 70% of the time. The lowest passing rate any of Leach's Wazzu attacks ever had in a single season was 65.6% in 2016. That rate would have ranked second nationally this season, a full 12% behind Wazzu's 2019 offense, which threw the ball a mind-boggling 77.9% of the time.
Mississippi State passed 39.2% of the time in 2019, so Bulldogs fans will be seeing an entirely new type of offense in the near future.