This weekend, as the Texas Tech football team hosts Houston, the university will induct three former members of the program into the Texas Tech Hall of Fame. That list includes former Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury and former linebacker Matt Wingo. However, the headliner among the inductees is undoubtedly the late Mike Leach.
In a way, it is fitting that Houston will be the opponent for the game when Leach is honored. That’s because his protegee, Dana Holgorsen, is the head coach of the Cougars.
The Leach coaching tree runs deep in college football. Current NCAA head coaches Lincoln Riley, Dave Aranda, Sonnie Cumbie, Sonnie Dykes, Josh Heupel, as well as Holgorsen all got their start under Leach. What’s more, former college head coaches such as Arit Briles, Seth Littrell, Ruffin McNeil, and Kingsbury all were mentored by the man affectionately known as “The Pirate”.
It is Holgorsen, though, who most reminds people of Leach. Possessing many of the same mannerisms as his former boss and never afraid to speak his mind in the bluntest of fashions, Holgorsen seems to channel his inner Leach whenever possible.
“I would argue he impacted football more than any human being alive because of how much he changed things at all three levels of play – high school, college, and the pros,” Holgorsen told Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. “You can’t watch a game at any level and not see his influence.”
When Leach took over as Texas Tech head coach in 2000, Holgorsen was hired to be his wide receivers coach. Then, in 2005, he was promoted to offensive coordinator, a position he’d hold through the 2007 season before he took the same role with Houston in 2008.
Certainly, Leach will be on everyone’s mind Saturday afternoon. Tech will be wearing a pirate flag sticker on the back of the helmet in his honor and it will be emotional when his widow and children are acknowledged during the game.
Of course, it is a shame that Leach never found a way to make peace with the Texas Tech administration during his life. The bitterness about his firing and the squabble over whether he was owed his salary for the 2009 season prevented him from being able to be fully honored in person by the university.
Now, it is fair to point out that, as long as Leach were the active head coach at another school, he likely wouldn’t have been able to be in Lubbock to be recognized anyway. However, the sentiment remains the same. It is disappointing that Leach and Tech never got to fully celebrate together what the winningest head coach in program history accomplished in Lubbock.
This weekend will be as much about remembering Leach as anything else. His influence will be all over the place both on and off the field as the school that he helped bring to national prominence faces off with a head coach who owes much of his success to the modern era’s greatest offensive innovator.
Of course, Texas Tech fans will only get warm and fuzzy feelings if the Red Raiders can find a way to top Holgorsen and the Cougars. It is a must-win for the Red Raiders if they have any reasonable hope of reaching a bowl game.
Fortunately, the following stats suggest that the Red Raiders may have an advantage in this matchup. Let’s look at where Joey McGuire’s team might have a leg up.