STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State formally introduced Mike Leach as its new head football coach Friday afternoon.
Athletic Director John Cohen began the press conference by listing off a number of reasons Mississippi State was interested in hiring Leach as the program’s 34th head football coach.
“We didn’t hire Mike Leach because he’s charismatic, but he is. We didn’t hire Mike Leach because he’s got a great sense of humor, but he does. We didn’t hire Mike Leach because he’s exceptionally bright, but he is. We did not hire Mike Leach because of his dynamic personality, but he’s got one. We did not solely hire Mike Leach because he’s a visionary and a pioneer in the modern game of college football, but indeed he is,” Cohen said. “We hired Mike Leach because he’s a disciplinarian. We hired Mike Leach because he’s a brilliant tactician. Most of all, we hired Mike Leach because he’s a proven winner,” Cohen said.
After being presented with his own special cowbell, Leach opened up by saying how honored he is.
“First thing I want to say is how honored I am to have the opportunity to work for John Cohen and also Dr. Keenum,” Leach said.
Leach said he’s always been familiar with the pride that exists at Mississippi State. He says he’s proud of his time with Washington State, but he is ready for a new chapter in his career.
He explained to the MSU players that he loved Washington State, the program he coached for the previous eight seasons, because of the city, the people and the young men he got to work with there. He said he turned down many other opportunities over the years to stay with the Cougars, but the Mississippi State job is one he couldn’t turn down.
“Why I chose Mississippi State — the cowbell represents a lot of the pride and tradition that personifies this place and I guess there’s so many ways to describe that, you know? They put the symbol under the cowbell and that means more than we really have time to talk about here but it’s something that even as an outsider you feel,” Leach said.
“I want you to know how proud I am to be a part of the Bulldog family and to have the opportunity to be here,” Leach said in a video posted to the Mississippi State football program’s Twitter account.
However, Leach did experience one disappointment when he arrived in Starkville.
“I did experience one disappointment when I came to Mississippi State,” Leach said. “I wanted to go down to that old visitor’s locker room. The artistry of which I truly admire. I mean that sincerely. Maybe my taste and view on football and sports are different than others, but the old visitor’s locker room at Mississippi State was literally a work of art,” he said.
“Obviously, if you’re the home team, you want to have most advantageous visitor’s locker room you can,” Leach said. “Nowadays, in these kinder and gentler days, it was utterly outstanding. Just the thought that went into it. The malicious intent. The ‘hey, it’s tough to play on the road attitude.’ Yep, I counted them right, 37 nails in a concrete block, two toilets with no seats and no lids in the middle. One roll of toilet paper in the middle. I was convinced here I would have the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of the locker room of that magnitude. I am disappointed the greatest visitors’ locker room of all time is no more,” he said.
Leach is known for his air raid-style offense, which is much different from the ground-and-pound style that Bulldog fans are used to.
“We’re going to do some things here that are different than other teams do,” Leach said. “And we’re very proud of that because we expect our results to be different than the other guys. I don’t think anybody came to play football at a great Division I university like this to just be the other guy down the road,” he said.
Leach was asked about the rivalry with Ole Miss, who also has a new head coach in Lane Kiffin.
”I’ve known Lane for a long time. I actually like Lane Kiffin, but I know you’re not supposed to like anything from Ole Miss,” Leach said.
In 18 seasons as a head coach, Leach owns a 139-90 (60.7%) record. The two-time national coach of the year and three-time conference coach of the year has led his teams at Washington State (2012-19) and Texas Tech (2000-09) to 16 bowl games and has coached the nation’s No. 1 passing attack in 10 of those 18 seasons.