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Mike Leach leaves WSU for Mississippi State

The Air Raid guru’s 8-year run in Pullman is over as he heads for Starkville — and the SEC.

Mike Leach hired Mississippi State WSU Washington State Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach is leaving Pullman to take the same position with the Mississippi St. Bulldogs, a move first reported by Pete Thamel of Yahoo. Leach was reported to have been interviewed by Mississippi State on Wednesday at his home in Florida. Apparently that meeting was enough to convince the coach to take the job in Starkville.

The move has been confirmed by WSU.

“On behalf of Washington State, we would like to thank Coach Leach for his eight years of service to the Cougars,” WSU president Kirk Schulz said via news release. “Mike has transformed Washington State Football into a national brand and we will be forever grateful. We wish he and Sharon nothing but the best in their next chapter at Mississippi State. Now we look forward to elevating the Cougs to the highest levels of college football.”

Leach will replace Joe Moorhead, who coached in Starkville for just two seasons and was fired a week ago. Terms of a potential contract were not immediately available.

Given WSU’s stretch of five consecutive bowls, including a team-record 11 wins in 2018, he was always going to be a major target for Power 5 programs with vacant head coaching positions. He has now enjoyed sustained success at two major conference outposts in Wazzu and Texas Tech, but will face his toughest test in the SEC West.

Leach has long had wandering eyes as a coach — it’s part of what discontented the Texas Tech Red Raiders with him so many years ago — and his name has come up often in the last few years whenever a bigger job has opened. He had a high-profile dalliance with the Tennessee Volunteers following the 2017 season, but that seemed to be as close as he got to moving on from Pullman. Until now.

Leach leaves WSU with an overall record of 55-47 in eight seasons, having completely rebuilt it from the ground up after the tenure of Paul Wulff, who left it as one of the worst jobs in all of FBS.