One of the most successful football coaches in college is returning to the sidelines at Washington State University.
Mike Leach, who earned a master’s degree in 1989 in sports coaching from the United States Sports Academy and in 2003 was named the Academy’s Alumnus of the Year, was announced as the Cougars new coach on Dec. 1.
“One of the first things people ask me is, ‘Why Washington State?’” Leach said in his introductory press conference. “I think, ‘Well, that’s a stupid question.’ I roll that through my mind but I don’t say it. Then I immediately blurt out all the very obvious answers: The commitment to excellence in every phase of the university; the excitement around here in the community; and the fact that you can win here and win big, I believe.”
Leach last coached two years ago at Texas Tech University where he had a controversial split in 2009. He and his coaching staff were accused of mistreating a Red Raiders player, Adam James, who is the son of ESPN football analyst Craig James, after he suffered a concussion. However no wrongdoing was found and Leach has a pending lawsuit against the Lubbock, Texas, school.
A 25-year coaching veteran, Leach is the winningest football coach in Texas Tech history and led the team to a No. 2 national ranking. He earned 2008 Coach of the Year honors. Known as an offensive innovator, Leach’s “Air Raid” offenses ranked first in passing in six of nine seasons and included such pass catchers as Wes Welker and Michael Crabtree, who both now star in the NFL.
Besides being known for his offensive wizardry, Leach is known as an eccentric figure in coaching circles, with a law degree and long-standing fascination with pirates.
Leach has worked for the past two years as a college football analyst for CBS and a radio host of Sirius XM’s “College Football Playbook.” He also wrote a 260-page autobiography, “Swing Your Sword: Leading the Charge in Football and Life.”
Leach has proven he can win at places not considered to be elite schools in college football. He is sought out for advice on the passing game. Washington State Athletic Director Bill Moos said that he and Leach discussed his “baggage” and that he was satisfied that Leach is a strong leader who can return the Cougars to the heights they haven’t reached in a number of years in the Pac-12 Conference and nationally.
He will be paid a base salary of $2.25 million per year, far more that Washington State has ever paid a head coach in football or basketball. His presence and leadership abilities are considered key as the Cougars are currently trying to raise some $140 million for renovations to their stadium and for a new football facility.
“I’m thrilled to be back in coaching,” said Leach, who has credited his studies at the Academy with giving him management tools that he continues to use today in his coaching career. “I’ve enjoyed my past two years but that’s a different dimension than coaching. All for one and one for all is what you miss most. Preparing for the battle is exciting.”
Asked about his goals for restoring Washington State’s football program to prominence, Leach laid out three: 1) Be a team; 2) Be the most excited team to play; and 3) Be the best at doing your job. That said, his expectations are clear. “Win one game a week,” Leach says.
To learn more about courses of study such as the one followed by Mike Leach, go to the Academy’s website at http://ussa.edu.
To view the entire press conference introducing Leach as head coach at Washington State, go to http://www.wsucougars.com/allaccess/?media=287681.
Duwayne Escobedo is the United States Sports Academy’s Director of Communications. Before joining the Academy, he worked for 20 years as a journalist and newspaper editor.