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Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach does not do coach speak very often.
He performs Leach speech most of the time.
Often on the weekly SEC teleconference, he sounds more like he’s having a coffee at the Starkville Cafe on Main Street instead of answering questions from a bevy of inquisitive reporters from across the region.
On Wednesday, he was asked what he thinks are the reasons behind the acceleration of coach firings in college football. There are eight openings at the moment — LSU, USC, TCU, Washington, Washington State, Akron, Massachusetts and Florida International. Texas Tech, where Leach used to coach, Georgia Southern and Connecticut have already hired replacements.
He gave a simple answer.
“Because people are nuts,” he said.
Then he gave an elaboration.
“First of all, I think things go in trends, but just general societal mental illness, I think,” he said, which was quite a sequel to his original answer. And he went on.
“You know, the same thing’s happened with ADs (athletic directors),” he said. “It’s almost like there’s been a bounty on ADs, and so then as a result, there’s one on coaches too. And to me, it seemed like when people were all stuck at home with COVID, there’s all this nervous energy. You saw a bunch of ADs and coaches get fired. Hadn’t even coached the team for that season. ‘We’re not doing that good. Hey, let’s fire someone.’ I don’t think it’s productive.”
He moved on from a pandemic to agriculture.
“It’s like you’re a farmer and you say, ‘Well, I want to grow corn.’ And you plant some corn, and it grows six inches. And you say, ‘Well, it didn’t grow fast enough.’ So, you yank it up out of the ground,” he said. “And there’s coach after coach in the NFL Hall of Fame, and if you held them to that standard, they wouldn’t be there. I mean, they’d just be gone.”
And there would be a corn shortage as well.
As if that wasn’t enough, Leach was asked, “What is the malady?”
“I think there’s probably a number of things. And I haven’t thought about this very much until you’ve asked me,” Leach said.
For someone who hasn’t thought much about this, you’re doing great. Keep going.
“But I think that the addiction to machines is part of it,” he said. “Instead of people, No. 1, communicating with one another, and then No. 2, making their decisions based on kind of independent thought, I think then a lot of times our machines socially do the thinking for some. I don’t think that’s very healthy.”
Leach, meanwhile, is in no trouble at the moment at Mississippi State (6-4, 4-3 SEC), which just knocked off No. 17 Auburn, 43-34, after trailing 28-3 in the second quarter. The Bulldogs moved back into the College Football Rankings on Tuesday at No. 25 and can have a winning season for the first time since 2017. They host Tennessee State Saturday before the Egg Bowl against No. 12 Ole Miss (8-2, 4-2) on Thanksgiving night.
And his rival school’s coach, offensive mastermind Lane Kiffin, just called him “the best offensive coach in America” on ESPN’s GameDay last week.
“Well, he’s kind of setting the stage for a really good Egg Bowl,” Leach said. “I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t think that he thinks he’s the best offensive coordinator. So it was modest of him to say. And they’re doing a fine job this year, so we’ll just let the love keep coming both directions. How about that?”
Leach usually does not dance around questions either. But he does dance, or tries to anyway. He joined his players in the locker room after the Auburn win, and some camera phones captured it.
“I would not count on a lot of dancing,” Leach said of future game plans. “And to be honest, I hate dancing. You caught about a weak seven seconds on my part. They tried to get me to do it, and I was afraid they might dump something over my head if I didn’t. You know, like water, or worst of all, Gatorade.”
He even raised his arms.
“Just to let them know that I was really giving it a good try,” he said. “I started out just trying to walk in place, and that was clearly not satisfactory with my captors. So, I tried to bring the knees a little higher. And I do think I outdid Elaine on Seinfeld. And as soon as I thought it was safe to stop, I did and let them have a great time.”
I could see Leach on an episode of Seinfeld … at the diner.
1.Georgia (10-0, 8-0). 2. Alabama (9-1, 5-1). 3. Ole Miss (8-2, 4-2). 4. Texas A&M (7-3, 4-3). 5. Arkansas (7-3, 3-3). 6. Mississippi State (6-4, 4-3). 7. Tennessee (5-5, 3-4). 8. Kentucky (7-3, 5-3). 9. Auburn (6-4, 3-3). 10. LSU (4-6, 2-5). 11. Missouri (5-5, 2-4). 12. South Carolina (5-5, 2-5). 13. Florida (5-5, 2-5). 14. Vanderbilt (2-8, 0-6).
SATURDAY’S GAMES (CFP Rankings, FanDuel Point Spreads)
New Mexico State at Kentucky (35.5-point favorite), 11 a.m., SEC Network; Prairie View at No. 16 Texas A&M, 11 a.m., SEC+/ESPN+; Tennessee State at No. 25 Mississippi State, 11 a.m., SEC+/ESPN+; Charleston Southern at No. 1 Georgia, 11 a.m., SEC+/ESPN+; No. 21 Arkansas at No. 2 Alabama (21.5 points), 2:30 p.m., CBS; Florida (8.5 points) at Missouri, 3 p.m., SEC Network; Auburn (6.5 points) at South Carolina, 6 p.m., ESPN; Vanderbilt at No. 12 Ole Miss (36.5 points), 6:30 p.m., SEC Network; South Alabama at Tennessee (27.5 points), 6:30 p.m., ESPNU; Louisiana-Monroe at LSU (28.5 points), 8 p.m., ESPN2.
THANKSGIVING NIGHT, NOV. 25
No. 12 Ole Miss (8-2, 4-2 SEC) at No. 25 Mississippi State (6-4, 4-3 SEC), 6:30 p.m., ESPN.
FRIDAY, NOV. 26
Missouri (5-5, 2-4 SEC) at No. 21 Arkansas (7-3, 3-3 SEC), 2:30 p.m., CBS.
STAT OF THE WEEK
After falling behind 28-3 at Auburn last week, Mississippi State scored touchdowns on six straight possessions to take a 43-28 lead with 5:31 to play in the game and won 43-34. The first four drives covered 75, 75, 98 and 72 yards in 33 plays.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I liked the start.”
— Auburn coach Bryan Harsin’s opening statement on his team’s 28-3 lead in the second quarter before blowing the biggest lead for a loss in Auburn history, 43-34.