After the obligatory plane tracking scene from last night, it's obvious that Jayhawk nation would love nothing more than to land Mike Leach as their next head football coach.
But it might be best to temper expectations for the moment because this is setting up to be one of the wildest offseasons in recent memory. The openings are many, the quality of the openings are strong and that usually leads to a domino effect when it comes to coaching moves. Leach isn't going to set off any dominoes but he is a name that has circled around openings at UCLA, Washington State, Kansas and even a non-opening in Maryland.
The "Pirate" will be a sought after commodity and Sheahon Zenger will have to sell the Kansas program and pony up a pretty nice contract to make this happen. That's why it's best to not put all your emotional eggs in the Mike Leach basket. Nonetheless, let's take a quick look at Mike Leach as it pertains to being a Kansas coaching candidate.
First and foremost it is interesting to look at the parallels that Mike Leach has with the man Kansas replaced just two years ago in Mark Mangino. As many will recall Mangino was one of a very select number of BCS coaches that did not play collegiate football as a part of their background. Well Mike Leach was one of the others. Leach attended BYU during the Lavell Edwards/Norm Chow era and then went on to earn a Juris Doctor from Pepperdine, that's an expensive school.
Another thing the two have in common is the manner and timing of their departure. Both Mangino and Leach elevated their respective programs (Kansas, Texas Tech) to an unmatched level of success. Both seemed to rub those in a position of authority the wrong way based on the way they handled their business. And both were eventually removed for apparent player abuse. The level of this abuse and the validity to the claims are really quite different with Leach's departure seeming to be much more of a reach, but either way that's the story that Texas Tech's administration stuck to and that's why he isn't Red Raider.
Lastly the two spent some time on the same staff at Oklahoma during the early Bob Stoops era with Mangino taking over for Leach as offensive coordinator when Leach took the job at Tech. It is here where the similarities end and the differences are magnified as it has been noted that the two were not great at working together due to differing styles and a different opinion on how to go about their business, creative differences we'll call them. Either way, both were successful with Oklahoma and both were successful in their subsequent positions.
So where did Leach get his start? Well Leach got his first coaching gig at Cal Poly in 1987 before bouncing around a few jobs including a stint overseas in Pori Finland.
Leach's first stint as an offensive coordinator would come with Iowa Wesleyan in 1989 where Leach would serve three seasons under Hal Mumme, a coach he would follow for much of his early career. Even in his first gig, Leach had an identity for his offenses and it was always about big numbers at quarterback. Iowa Wesleyan finished first or second in passing yardage in each of Leach's three seasons and the school would set 26 NAIA offensive records during Leach's tenure.
From Iowa Wesleyan Mumme would head to Valdosta State and Leach would do the same from 1992-1996. Again, Leach and his offense would be the story during his time at the school. 80 school records, 35 conference records and 7 national records are credited to Leach during his tenure at Valdosta before Mumme and Leach would again move on to bigger and better things, this time in the SEC at Kentucky.
In two years at Kentucky Leach would lead the Wildcats to one of the more explosive offensive outputs in the leagues history. 116 school records, 41 SEC records and 6 national records are credited to the two teams coached by Leach and Mumme at Kentucky. Some might also remember the name Tim Couch. Couch was probably the first extremely notable quarterback that Mike Leach worked with but certainly not the last.
The next stop on the Leach career path was a one year stint at Oklahoma where the Sooners offensive numbers would go from worst in the conference in 1998 to first in the conference in 1999. Nationally the jump was 107th to 9th. You want to sell tickets Sheahon Zenger? Ask anyone at Kansas if they are interested in that level of a turnaround?
The rest is history as Leach would jump to Texas Tech the following year and lead the Red Raiders to their most successful run in the programs history. Under Leach the Red Raiders became known for their offensive system and explosive numbers. The programs success reached a new level of consistency with three nine win seasons and an 11 win season in 2008.
The accomplishments are many and we've all seen them first hand so I won't rehash them at this point. The fact of the matter is that Leach has been successful every step of the way. His overall head coaching record is 84-43 and his been to 9 bowl games with a 5-4 record. All of those numbers occurred IN THE BIG 12 CONFERENCE and IN THE BIG 12 SOUTH, that's HUGE and that makes this an extremely attractive hire.
But again, this will need to happen quickly if it is going to happen. Leach is available now and the openings are multiplying by the day. Sheahon Zenger does have connections to Leach dating back to Leach's time at Valdosta and Jon Kirby at Jayhawkslant has also reported that Zenger was a finalist for the running back coaches position under Leach at Tech. Leach would hire Briles, but the point is that Zenger has a way to get in the door and has a connection to Leach.
We'll see if this is the path Kansas chooses to go down, or even if Kansas is a path that Leach even wants to explore. Leach may not be interested at all and it could be that this one just isn't a realistic fit. But at this point there sure does seem to be a lot of Mike Leach talk when it comes to the Kansas football opening.