Leach, the head coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, suffered the heart attack on Sunday in his home in Starkville, Mississippi, where MSU is located. Reports claim that Leach did not receive any medical treatment for 10 or 15 minutes until EMTs arrived and shocked Leach with a defibrillator "multiple times" until they restored a regular heartbeat. Leach was first taken to a local hospital but quickly transferred via helicopter to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, approximately 120 miles southwest of Starkville.
The initial reports out of Starkville were grim. The Clarion Ledger wrote on Monday that Leach's situation was "dire" and that the 61-year-old coach "may have suffered seizures with the possibility of brain damage." In a statement released Monday, MSU claimed that Leach was "in critical condition."
"Mike Leach needs a miracle, folks. Continue to pray," Robbie Faulk, an MSU beat writer for 247Sports, tweeted on Sunday.
Leach, a coach described as an offensive "innovator" but who was perhaps best known for his humorous sideline and postgame interviews, had apparently not felt well for a while. He recently told ESPN that he had suffered from pneumonia off and on all season but that he had been feeling better lately.
After successful stints at Texas Tech and Washington State, Leach just completed his third regular season with the MSU Bulldogs (8-4), who just notched their first win against in-state rival Ole Miss under Leach's leadership. The Bulldogs are set to face Illinois (8-4) in the ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa, Florida, on January 2. Defensive coordinator Zach Arnett, 36, will assume head coaching responsibilities, the school announced.
Leach's family released a statement after he died.
"Mike was a giving was a giving and attentive husband, father and grandfather," the statement read. "He was able to participate in organ donation at UMMC as a final act of charity. We are supported and uplifted by the outpouring of love and prayers from family, friends, Mississippi State University, the hospital staff, and football fans around the world. Thank you for sharing in the joy of our beloved husband and father’s life."
The university has likewise released a statement.
"Coach Mike Leach cast a tremendous shadow not just over Mississippi State University, but over the entire college football landscape. His innovative ‘air raid’ offense changed the game," Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum said. "Mike’s keen intellect and unvarnished candor made him one of the nation’s true coaching legends. His passing brings great sadness to our university, to the Southeastern Conference, and to all who loved college football. I will miss Mike’s profound curiosity, his honesty, and his wide-open approach to pursuing excellence in all things.
"Mike’s death also underscores the fragility and uncertainty of our lives. Three weeks ago, Mike and I were together in the locker room celebrating a hard-fought victory in Oxford. Mike Leach truly embraced life and lived in such a manner as to leave no regrets. That’s a worthy legacy. May God bless the Leach family during these days and hours. The prayers of the Bulldog family go with them."
The following clip from October gives good insight into Leach's lovable persona. During this quick interview, SEC sideline reporter Alyssa Lang asked Leach for some advice while she plans her upcoming wedding. With a straight face, Leach said he would have advised her earlier "to keep [the wedding] on the down-low," but since she had let the cat out of the bag and announced her engagement publicly, Leach suggested she "go elope."
"Trust me on that," he added.
Lang's smile throughout the interview demonstrates that all of Leach's side commentary was meant in good fun. He spent other interviews discussing his favorite Halloween candy and the art of making Thanksgiving gravy.
Leach is survived by his wife, Sharon, and their four children.