Mike Leach has been out of coaching since after the 2009 season, when he had a messy exit from Texas Tech. Leach has been embroiled in a wrongful termination lawsuit thanks to an incident involving receiver Adam Jones.
But there’s no doubt about Leach’s ability as a coach – he was 84-43 in a decade in Lubbock – especially on the offensive side of the ball, where he directed some of college football’s most-explosive offenses.
It’s only a matter of time before Leach returns from college football purgatory. And with Mike Locksley’s recent firing at New Mexico, “Mike Leach Watch” is officially underway.
Where will he land? We examine the likeliest landing spots.
If FAU wants to replace Howard Schnellenberger with another high-profile coach, Leach could be its man. Leach would destroy Sun Belt defenses just as Schnellenberger’s Miami (FL) teams did to opponents in the 1980s. But it would be an extremely low-profile job for Leach – even though he already lives in the Florida Keys, which would make it a logical move for the coach.
Would Leach wait for a bigger job to come along? Well, considering that he has been persona non-grata in college football, Leach might have to take a step down from the Big 12. But Leach would have to be desperate to take this gig.
9. Washington State
Paul Wulff has posted a 7-33 record through three-plus seasons with the Cougars, who haven’t made a bowl game since 2003. Needless to say, Wulff is hanging onto his job by thread. Yes, Wazzu is 2-1 this season, when it started with consecutive wins over Idaho State and UNLV before a loss to San Diego State. We’ll see what happens when Wulff’s club starts Pac-12 play. We don’t think it will be pretty.
Leach would be an immediate upgrade for the school and an opportunity for the exiled coach to make his return in a top league. He eventually could find himself as a head coach in a Pac-16 super-conference. Not a bad way to make a comeback. That being said, we think that there are other programs on Leach’s wish list ahead of this struggling program in the Pacific Northwest.
The major questions in Athens: Would Georgia’s athletic department roll the dice and hire Leach? He certainly would be the polar opposite of current head coach Mark Richt, who is well-liked and doesn’t ruffle many feathers despite coaching some under-achieving teams. Bringing Leach aboard certainly would raise some eyebrows. Even so, it’s clear that Georgia fans want him in a desperate attempt to shake up the program.
It’s hard not to love coaching in the SEC at a tradition-rich program like Georgia. However, it’s unclear if the Bulldogs will fire Richt. By the time we find out, Leach might be on his way somewhere else.
UAB isn’t in a BCS conference like Washington State and Georgia, but it could be a diamond in the rough for Leach. The offensive guru would be able to work wonders with the talent the Blazers could haul in – behind Leach’s name, of course – from their fertile state. Speaking of Alabama, UAB plays third banana in the state behind the last two national champions. But that shouldn’t bother Leach, who was in a similar situation in Texas behind the Longhorns and Aggies.
If things don’t work out elsewhere, we can see Leach making his comeback in Conference USA, putting up video game numbers and using the Blazers as a stepping stone to bigger and better things after the underwhelming Neil Callaway Era.
We know that Leach has made his name in Big 12 country, but he is a native of Northeast California, where he was born before moving to Wyoming. He graduated from BYU and generally was bred a West Coast guy. And the Bruins certainly are a high-profile West Coast program. The hiring of Leach no doubt would be welcomed in Westwood, where Rick Neuheisel has failed to live up to expectations. In fact, we think Leach has a better shot at reclaiming at least part of Los Angeles from USC than Neuheisel ever had.
Leach would have access to a ton of great recruiting – it’s UCLA; pretty easy to sell, right? – and already has some familiarity with the program. Leach already was rumored to be in the running for the offensive coordinator role in recent years. But would UCLA really roll the dice with Leach when it can pick from so many great candidates? It seems a little far-fetched.
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