“This conference is loaded with quality coaches. That’s what makes it exciting.”

For the record, I don’t see Mike Leach ever collecting that million dollar bonus at Mississippi State.  Or the half-million one, for that matter.  I suspect his AD doesn’t expect that, either.

But I don’t see his situation as hopeless, either.  For one thing, he’s made a decent career out of raising a program’s profile and success, as Andy Staples ($$) summarized:

… Leach has succeeded in two far-flung Power 5 outposts with marginal history already. Texas Tech has a .540 winning percentage without Leach and a .661 winning percentage (84-43) with him. Washington State had a .494 winning percentage without Leach and a .539 winning percentage (55-47) with him, and that includes the three years it took to dig out from Paul Wulff’s disastrous tenure.

Like him or not, Leach has made an also-ran SEC West program relevant in a way few other hires Mississippi State could have made.

“Ah”, you say (assuming you’re a skeptic), “but now Leach has to try to win in a significantly tougher setting than he’s ever faced before.”  Skeptical you has a good point there.  There are a couple of good rebuttals to offer, though.

For one, this isn’t the Air Raid’s first rodeo in the SEC.  As I’ve noted before, Leach and Hal Mumme had a pretty notable run together at Kentucky in the late nineties.  Don’t think Leach doesn’t lack confidence he can be an offensive PITA again.  And he’s probably right.

The second rebuttal is that, while the opposition has gone up a degree in toughness, so has Leach’s access to resources.  Again, from Staples:

Mississippi State is like Texas Tech and Washington State in that it is one of the more remote campuses in its league. But it is different in its proximity to talent. The state of Mississippi is rich with players, and it’s close enough to Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and northern Florida to attract players from those areas. Also, the Mississippi junior college system — which the coach at Mississippi State is expected to mine — can provide ready access to players from other places who may have needed a little extra work coming out of high school.

It’s not just players, either.  Mississippi State may have one of the lowest athletic budgets in the conference, but compared to where Leach has been, it’s flush.

Leach will enter the league facing doubts about whether his offense can succeed in the most cutthroat division in college football. He’ll also do it at the place that spends the least on football in the SEC West, according to figures provided to the U.S. Department of Education for the 2017-18 school year.

Texas A&M: $82.6 million

Alabama: $62.9 million

Arkansas: $44.6 million

Auburn: $43.6 million

LSU: $31.5 million

Ole Miss: $30.2 million

Mississippi State: $23.2 million

But least is relative. Washington State spent $20 million last year. And look how close Mississippi State is to LSU, which is playing for the national title on Monday. At a certain point, you’re just rich. And everyone in the SEC is rich at the moment and about to get richer when Disney/ESPN kicks in a few more hundred million a year to buy the SEC’s top game each weekend in a deal that will replace the bargain CBS currently gets. Leach has never been at a place with this kind of resources — monetary or natural.

Washington State doesn’t have an indoor practice facility.  According to USA Today, the salary pool for Leach’s assistants at Wazzou totalled $3,463,790.  Mississippi State just upped that amount by more than a third.  You may disagree, but Leach probably feels like he’s died and gone to heaven a little bit.

So, do I think Mike Leach is about to establish some sort of SEC West dynasty?  Nah, not even close.  Do I think he’s going to up MSU’s game, enjoy the occasional upset of one of the West’s powers and entertain the fan base?  Yeah, pretty much.  I expect they’ll be pretty happy about where that $5 million salary will be going.

What do you guys think?


Filed under Mike Leach. Yar!, SEC Football

25 responses to ““This conference is loaded with quality coaches. That’s what makes it exciting.”

  1. Derek

    He’ll do what he always does. Stats! and win enough to matter but not enough to win a division and the leach fan boys will forget mullen and sherrill like they act like mike price ever existed and say “no one had ever done X at MSU!”

    We’ve seen this movie over again and again.

    Leach is a great hire for an abysmal program. For a program thats already going to bowl games? I’m not sure he moves the needle much.


    • junkyardawg41

      I totally agree. I think he is going to have what I will call the A&M/Ole Miss effect. He will beat LSU or Bama once in the next 2-3 years and hang his hat on that and be good for 1-2 big upsets a year and 2-3 head scratchers.


  2. gastr1

    I don’t know. I wonder how much Leach cares anymore, and that minimally-changes per Chris Peterson) offense is not nearly as exotic as it once was. In others, I think he’s going to have to get more creative than he has been to survive… I doubt he can win more than 10 games in the SEC, but I don’t doubt he can lose 10.



  3. TXBaller

    Rose to #2 in 2008…..and finished #10 in 2018. He’ll get the job done in Starkville. All while building the Miss St brand. GREAT HIRE!


  4. Greg

    Gonna be entertaining to watch him and Kiffin go at it.

    It will be tough at MSU, not matter the coach. But I can see an improvement.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dylan Dreyer's Booty

      I agree that entertaining is a minimum. It’s a great hire for the Cowbells. It’s a great hire for the blogosphere. Probably a really good hire for Disney, because his brand of football will be seen by more people on the east coast who aren’t insomniacs. But I don’t think I’d be buying any SECCG game tickets if I was a Mississippi fan of any ilk. Lane is essentially the same kind of hire so having the two of them in the same state should be very interesting. Oh, and annoying when we (or any legit contender) has to play them.


  5. Agree, w/ the Senator. MSU fans are already satisfied w/ that first $5mm on Day 4.


  6. 81Dog

    He’s never going to win thw Southern Conference championship game, no matter what his offense is. The fake Bulldogs AD needs a proofreader


  7. Glenn chandler

    I think he beats Gus year one….

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Has he hired a DC yet? That’s what it comes down to, imo. Or maybe lack of defense is more a byproduct of the offense. This is why I don’t think Kirby would have gone after Bobo. Not that Bobo is in the air raid league but his pace wasn’t very helpful to a couple struggling defenses. Makes me curious why Boom went after him, though, he could have changed.

    I got off track. Damn! 5 million per right up front? I guess he’ll also be a walking talking advertisement for MSU so it’s definitely an investment that should see some good returns for the first couple years. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of recruiter he his because he’s already created a buzz.


  9. Whiskey Dawg

    I think he’s got the potential to do as well as Danny Boy did there. As posted above, I do think who is DC will have a lot to do with it.


  10. Keese

    I think you’re selling him short. I predict he’ll be a real thorn in everyone’s side and pull quite a few upsets in the SEC west in a few years.


  11. 69Dawg

    He will be able to get the QB’s he needs and the WR’s. His brand of football is what the kids are used to and want. You can laugh about stats but stats get the pros looking. He is like the Genius but with air in the ball. His system will give the west fits until the DC’s figure it out. Saban being Saban will soon announce the hiring of a QC guy from the Pac 12 to insure the Tide gets it (speculation only). My fear is that the East teams that only see it on rare occasions will be screwed. Who in the East is MSU’s yearly “rivalry” game?
    I heard him say that his first requirement for a QB is accuracy. If he is accurate he can be coached to succeed in his system. He and Lane are going to be a breath of fresh air in the SEC.


  12. Mayor

    I think Mike Leach will do better than expected at Missy State as long as he gets a really good DC. His teams will score points. Can they stop anyone is the question.


  13. Erskine

    Not sure how his press conference will go over when he criticizes his team’s toughness, as he did this past year @ WSU.
    Suspect they will put up a bunch of passing yards, kick a lot of FG’s and battle for 3-4 place in the division as normal with the occasional upset of a top conference team. Do not see Leach amassing a deep 4 star roster or developing a defense that will consistently compete. The years when MSU contends typically coincides with a defense in the upper 1/3 of the conference.


  14. Anonymous

    Mike Leech’s success has generally boiled down to the defense. While at Texas Tech and Wazzu, he was able to hire some good coordinators, but he was never able to keep them around. He will have the same problem with the Bizarro-Dawgs, but he will have some advantages there that he did not have at his previous stops. He gives his DC free reign over the defense. That combined with the talent available in their recruiting area means there will be no shortage of quality defensive coaches looking to turn 2-3 good years there into a payday at major program.

    Starkvegas also fits his MO with recruiting. In Pullman, he focused on how since there was nothing to do there, the kids could focus on football and going to school. This was surprisingly effective with kids from violent or drug-addled neighborhoods.

    Dan Mullen went 0.600 (69-46). He only had one 10 win season which was also the only season where he had a winning record (5-3) in the conference. I fully expect Leech to do better than Mullen provided that they don’t fire him for being a weirdo.


    • I think you’re right about the defense and not keeping his DCs around. That could be something he has more success with at MSU, given the increase in staff salaries he has to work with now.


      • Anonymous

        I don’t think he’ll be able to keep them, but MSU has had bunch of good DCs that have left for greener pastures: Bob Shoop (hasn’t left yet), Todd Grantham (Florida), Geoff Collins (Florida, now HC), Manny Diaz (Texas and Miami, now HC), Ellis Johnson (South Carolina), Charlie Harbison (Clemson). You don’t see talent like that walking through Pullman or Lubbock on an annual basis. Even if they don’t stay, he should be able to get better coaches than he has had access to in the past.


  15. If he turns MSU into an 8-9 win team, that will be a monumental accomplishment considering who they have been traditionally. That’s what the genius Mullen was able to accomplish, and I think Leach will do the same.


  16. Cynical Dawg

    Leach will have 4 automatic losses at the start of every season. But, really, who cares? Mississippi State hasn’t won the SEC football title since FDR was president. Tulane and Georgia Tick have more SEC titles than MSU.


  17. MGW

    I think he’s going to do his thing but he’ll have better talent to match stiffer competition. He had pretty damn stiff competition when he was doing well in Lubbock, too, so it’s not foreign to him. People forget that’s when OU and Texas we’re both pretty great, and even Kansas and Mizzou were making runs at the BCS. Wasn’t as top heavy of a conference back then and his teams held their own, with occasional brushes with greatness. He wasn’t fired for the teams performance.

    Frankly, I haven’t heard a lot about the effect it’ll have on him in the SEC now that the air raid is finally mainstream, even if his version is more strictly pass heavy than the systems proliferating across the country and the NFL. “He’s an air raid system QB/WR” has a little different ring to it than it did even just a couple years ago. It’s a few of his own former QB’s and assistants who are now some of the biggest names in coaching searches.

    There’s a good chance he’s able to start recruiting a good bit better than he used to be able to over in the desert and up in the great white north. If you’re a QB, you can go to State and you’ll put up serious numbers in the SEC west. If you’re a stud WR, you can be pretty damn sure you’re going to get 10+ targets a game over there.

    You could always do that, except now the system is actually a good thing for your pro career.