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Rounding up the Mike Leach coaching rumors

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Could WSU’s coach really leave? Here’s the current scuttlebutt.

Washington State v Arizona Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

UPDATED 12/8, 11:30 a.m. with Oregon hiring Mario Cristobal.

When a coach ventures to Pullman, Washington, and takes a Washington State Cougars program that was 9-40 in the previous four seasons and turns it into a program that is contending for division championships and heading to its third consecutive bowl, that coach is going to have his name bandied about for coaching vacancies.

When that coach is Mike Leach, you can count on it doubly so.

So it is that we’ve now reached the silly season, as schools both justifiably (Florida, Nebraska, UCLA, Arkansas, etc.) and maybe unjustifiably (ASU? Really?) look for the next guy to take them to the promised land that only a few schools reach with regularity anyway.

Given WSU’s success, fans’ (and media members’) infatuation with Leach’s personality, as well as Leach’s propensity over the years to float his name in connection with openings (this happened regularly at Texas Tech), it only makes sense that we’re hearing his name pop up quite a bit right now.

Of course, this also is contingent on a school being willing to take a chance on a guy who actually has never won a conference championship, as well as put up with his shenanigans off the field.

Let’s round up the more popular potential destinations.

Oregon

With Willie Taggart’s departure for Florida State, Mike Leach’s name surfaced in connection with the Oregon Ducks. Wrote John Canzano:

(Leach) is super interesting to me as a possible hire. Not just as an interview, but as a football coach. He brings immediate identity. Compare the records between Leach and Taggart. Compare awards. Compare body of work. He's won impressively everywhere he's been without resources and a recruiting base. National personality. Also, he's beat Oregon three straight times. I'm told Phil Knight likes him.

Today, Oregon put that to rest by naming offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal the new coach:

There never appeared to be much more to it than Leach’s name getting floated; the question is always whether it would make sense for both sides and it was a little hard to imagine the culture of liberal western Oregon being a fit with the culture of #MAGA-stumping Leach, but weirder things have certainly happened in the pursuit of college football victories.

Status: Leach to Oregon is dead.

Tennessee

The first big rumor came in connection with the Tennessee Volunteers’ vacancy:

It was thought to be credible enough that Leach was asked about it after the game last night. He issued the standard non-denial denial: “The biggest thing is I’m focused on Washington State, excited about that and we’re going to a great bowl and I for one couldn’t be happier.”

That looked moot:

But then it wasn’t!

And Leach was firmly back in the mix — so much so, that it was reported he actually interviewed for the job with Tennessee AD John Currie, and that a job offer was extended. Then things got weird.

Apparently Currie wasn’t the one making decisions at Tennessee and his meeting with Leach wasn’t well-liked back home:

Phillip Fulmer was named the new AD, and the school moved on from Leach. Finally, Fulmer has his man.

Status: Leach to Tennessee is officially dead.

Arkansas

The Arkansas Razorbacks fired Bret Bielema before he even got off the field of his last game, and the program is in the sort of location that would make sense for a guy like Leach.

Turns out, it doesn’t appear that there was any interest after all. Leach’s name never seriously surfaced in this search, and the Razorbacks dipped down to the Group of 5 to find their next guy:

Status: Leach to Arkansas is officially dead.

Mississippi State

This job came open when Dan Mullen bolted for Florida:

But Missisippi State decided to go the coordinator route:

Status: Leach to Mississippi State is dead.

Other dominoes?

With each domino that falls, we expected to hear Leach’s name come up. For example ... when it was presumed Scott Frost presumed would leave for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, we wondered if the Central Florida Knights might throw a boatload of cash at him in order to try and entice him back to a location much nearer Key West? (The answer to that turned out to be “no.”)

We’ll update this post as the landscape shifts, but it’s starting to look like the carousel is slowing down, with nearly all of the major openings having been filled, and Leach only having been a serious candidate in one place. Perhaps that’s an indication that Leach isn’t as desirable as we all assumed?