Washington State football coach Mike Leach taught a class last spring called “Leadership Lessons in Insurgent Warfare and Football Strategies.” He co-taught the class with Mike Baumgartner, a former Washington senator, State Department officer in Iraq, and counter-narcotics officer in Afghanistan. To get in, students had to write essays on the Malay insurgency and the wishbone offense.
While it may seem odd that a football coach would teach this class, it makes sense for Leach, one of college football’s most unique individuals. Leach’s coaching style and off-field interests helped him lead one of the most unique classes ever offered by a university.
Mike Leach’s coaching style
Leach is considered one of the most innovative coaches in college football. In the late ’80s, he became the offensive coordinator at Iowa Wesleyan College and worked under head coach Hal Mumme, who developed the Air Raid offense. Mumme wasn’t a college coach for long, but his offensive principles reach all levels of football. Coaches like Lincoln Riley, Kliff Kingsbury, and Leach base their offensive schemes on the Air Raid.
Originally from California, Leach spent the next decade refining the Air Raid. He became Texas Tech’s head coach in 2000. As head coach, Leach set tons of passing records, won several Coach of the Year awards, and sent many players to the NFL. His most famous Texas Tech player was Kingsbury, who coaches the Arizona Cardinals now.
Leach ended up at Washington State in 2012. Last year, Leach went 11-2 and led the nation in passing for the third time in five years. During that time, his quarterback was Gardner Minshew, who has put up huge numbers in his first three games with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The coach’s teams play at a fast tempo and with tons of quick passes. Leach spreads the field, hoping to put stress on defenses and find weaknesses to exploit. While he may not have the best talent in college football, Leach uses every schematic advantage he can to even the playing field.
Leach’s outside interests
A history buff, Leach has a law degree from Pepperdine University. He reads a lot and is always learning new things. This intellectual curiosity also translates to football. Leach is constantly trying new and unorthodox plays. He’s sped up his offense’s tempo, spread out his players all over the field, and only runs when necessary. Since his time with Mumme, Leach has looked for unique ideas he can use on the field.
Would you take Leach’s class?
One Leach’s many interests involve military strategy and tactics. For example, when he was offered a tour of Fairchild Air Force Base, he jumped at the chance. So, it wasn’t a surprise that Leach would teach a class that combined military strategy and football.
Leach has coached at non-traditional football schools for most of his career. He’s been an innovator and tried many unorthodox tactics to beat more traditional powers. Insurgent warfare involves a group of rebels fighting against an established government. It also requires innovation. We see enough similarities between the topics to create a compelling class.
The class looked at how less-talented football teams upset traditional powers and compared those to military tactics used by insurgents. The unique class offered something different to students and provided Washington State with a lot of media attention. For Leach, the class allowed him to combine two of his favorite subjects.