VALDOSTA –– Former Valdosta State football assistant coach Mike Leach was named head coach at Mississippi State as he became the third former Blazer football staffer to be named a current head coach in the Southeastern Conference, earlier this week.
Leach joins University of Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and University of South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp as former Blazer coaches who now are head coaches in the SEC. Leach spent the last eight seasons as head coach at Washington State and was the head coach for Texas Tech from 2000-09.
He guided Washington State to a 55-47 record and took the Cougars to a school-record five consecutive bowl games. Since 2015, Leach led WSU to 43 wins, marking the most for a WSU coach during a five-year span. With his "Air Raid" offense, which was born in Valdosta while he was at VSU, Leach and the Cougars have led the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) four times in the past seven seasons.
Leach came to Titletown in 1992 as offensive coordinator, quarterbacks and receiver coach for newly hired head coach Hal Mumme as the duo had been at Iowa Wesleyan College where they set numerous offensive records. Mumme and Leach brought the "Air Raid" offense with them to Valdosta, as they helped lead VSU to its first appearances in the NCAA Division II football playoffs in 1994 and 1996.
While at VSU, Leach and Mumme perfected the offense and, in 1995, VSU finished third nationally in passing at 349.3 yards per game and 15th in total offense at 425 yards per game. VSU led the Gulf South Conference in both categories and was third in scoring offense at 26 points per game.
In both 1994 and 1996, Leach and Mumme helped lead VSU to the quarterfinal round of the playoffs. The 1996 season was a year to remember as VSU won its first football league title, finishing 10-3 overall and 6-2 in GSC play. Leach then moved onto Kentucky with Mumme where they continued to set records with the "Air Raid."
Smart and Muschamp came to VSU in 2000 under new head coach and former Blazer great Chris Hatcher. Muschamp spent just the one season at VSU a defensive coordinator and linebackers coach helping the Blazers to a GSC title and a 10-2 record. Smart coached the secondary in 2000 and in 2001 took over for Muschamp as the defensive coordinator as he helped lead the team to a 12-1 record and a GSC title with a perfect 9-0 record. The 12 wins by the Blazers were the most to that point in program history.
Muschamp then joined Nick Saban's staff at LSU in 2001 and had stints with the Miami Dolphins, Auburn and Texas, before being named head coach at Florida in 2011 where he led the Gators for four seasons. After returning to Auburn in 2014, Muschamp took the head coaching job in 2016 at South Carolina where he has been for the past four seasons.
Smart left VSU following the 2001 season and was a graduate assistant under Bobby Boden at Florida State. He then coached for Saban at LSU in 2004 and then followed Saban to Alabama in 2007. He was named head coach at Georgia on Dec. 6, 2015, where he has been for the past four seasons.