It’s interesting how we can all sometimes experience deep sorrow when someone we really don’t know dies.

Such is the case for me as I write this, because Mike Leach passed away Monday night.

For those of you who aren’t aware, Leach was a college football coach known for his innovative approach which resulted in the creation of the now widely used “Air Raid” offense. He was head coach at Texas Tech in the 2000s before taking the lead job at Washington State University (my alma mater) in 2012 and guiding the Cougars until 2020 when he was lured away by Mississippi State.

Leach apparently had a massive heart attack and never recovered. He was 61.

Again for those of you unaware, Leach was also known for his odd, dry sense of humor, and for engaging in off-the-field antics not common in major college coaching ranks. This is actually what drew me to him most, and I truly enjoyed having him as top football man at Wazzu for eight years.

Of course, success followed Leach wherever he coached, and his time with the Cougs was no exception. My favorite memory of his days in Pullman was prior to the 2018 season when he talked Gardner Minshew III into playing quarterback for WSU instead of going to Alabama. You see, Minshew was a graduate student who had planned to transfer from East Carolina to Bama, knowing he would be on the sideline as a backup QB, but also knowing he would glean coaching techniques from one of the best-ever: Nick Saban.

But things changed when Leach called and asked, “how would you like to lead the nation in passing this year?” After thinking it over a bit, Minshew accepted Leach’s offer and joined Wazzu. And Leach’s prediction about passing came to fruition, as Washington State went 11-2 and Minshew was the nation’s leading passer.

But then there were the jokes, anecdotes and stories. Leach was a master of using the English language and would often say things that would make anyone stop and think – or break out in a smile.

One of my favorites was when Leach went into a detailed explanation of how he followed raccoon tracks in the snow for an extended time. What was best about it was that the tale was told during a press conference about football.

But that wasn’t all that unusual for Leach; he almost always seemed like he was about to deliver a funny insult, jab or just plain silly statement, always in his patented a deadpan style.

If you want to laugh, search online for “the best of Mike Leach” and listen to one of the YouTube videos of some of his funniest quotes and moments. You can also find a video of the raccoon story.


But beyond his entertainment value, Leach was a really, really good football coach. And he had such a great offensive mind that he didn’t use an offensive coordinator, instead designing game plans and calling plays himself.

Anyway, Leach will be remembered as “The Mad Scientist of Football,” “The Pirate” and the inventor of the Air Raid.

And has been said many times, once a Coug, always a Coug. While I like current WSU head coach Jake Dickert a lot, I’ll never forget the Leach years.

He was a dandy.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email:

Doug Davison

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Contact him by phone at 417-967-2000 or by email at

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply Cancel reply