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Mike Leach Interview (Ep. 689)

mike leach interview

Mike Leach Interview

Sean
Joining us on the line is the head football coach of Washington State University. Mike Leach (@Coach_Leach). Mike, appreciate you calling in.

Coach Leach
Thanks so much for having me on.

Sean
What was your reaction when you saw that we named you the number one college football head coach?

Coach Leach
I was honored. I was very flattered. I appreciate it. You know, any, any honor distinction is, is a team honor and distinction. I’ve really been proud of the way our team together and coaches and players have achieved. And I think that that means a lot to all of us because, you know, there’s been a lot of hands on the wheel. Um, you know, to try to elevate our program and to do the best we can.

Colby
I’ve been loving what you guys have been doing, I read some publications that had you much further down the line on coaching, which blew my mind. I’m the one who wrote the article, Mike. And, I just could not believe that they had you so far down. I don’t think they understand you’ve done this now twice. You did this at Texas Tech. You did this at Washington State, and I think I really believe in what I wrote and yeah, you guys are doing great things and I’m excited to see you guys again this year.

Coach Leach
Well, I appreciate it. We had a good spring. I felt like we had a really good spring. Of course. I always think it’s good. It’s one of those things, the longer it goes on the more optimistic I become during the season. On Sunday, I don’t know if we can beat Pullman High School, by Friday, I’m pretty convinced we can beat the Patriots. This is not a game or a sport for rational people and I’m not a rational person.

Sean
I think that’s what makes you so entertaining as a football coach as well. You’re not afraid to go there. You’re not afraid to lay out some conspiracy theories. Talk about bigfoot, whatever’s kind of on your mind. I think fans appreciate that kind of honesty and candor.

Coach Leach
Well, if they ask me, if they ask me, I’ll answer it. I don’t have too much off limits really. Cause otherwise if it’s off limits, he’ll talk about it anyway. You know the thing is, is everybody’s going to be dead in a hundred years anyway and you only get so much time to experience, the thoughts and experiences with others. I think it’s best to share from and draw from as many of them as you can. I’m sitting here looking at a stack of books on my on deck circle, which has gotten pretty overwhelming. I’ll never get them all read, but I would like to and would like to check out as much as I can. But, you know, we had a bigfoot wandering around some of our spring games —

Sean
Real quick, Mike. If bigfoot was a college football player, what position would he play?

Coach Leach
I think a DE although there is this to think about, if we had five of them and they were on the o line, it’d be impossible to stop them. I think they have long arms. I don’t know how fast they are. I’m curious about that. But I think they’re fast enough.

Ryan
I’ve seen those Jack Link’s commercials. I don’t think they have a good enough arm for quarterback.

Coach Leach
Yeah. Although I think they’d be hard to sack. It’d be pretty hard to sack bigfoot. I don’t know about the accuracy, although they usually hit their targets on those commercials.

Colby
Mike, I call our college football playoff an invitational and I think you share the same opinion here that I think 64 teams is what needs to happen or at least at least 16 or 32.

Coach Leach
The minimum 16 some minimum one AA does division three, division two and a lot of the major high school, you know, a kind of regional playoffs and things like that. The thing is the 64 works out so well numerically. It’s hard to ignore. And I have a lot of respect for Gonzaga and their basketball program who are right up the road and Spokane. But I’d be on the East Coast and somebody will have some Gonzaga gear on. So I’m thinking, all right, well this guys, he’s from Spokane, or maybe even Pullman, you know, and I’ll go up and say, “Hey, are you from Washington?” The Gal say, no, I’m from New York or North Carolina or somewhere. I go, “Well you’ve got all this Gonzaga stuff on. Do you have relatives in Spokane?” He’ll say, “Where’s Spokane?” The guy just liked getting Zaga gear because he’s been infused with all this energy and enjoyed watching Gonzaga play in the course of the tournament.

And then of course, if advancing in the tournament, I think it’s shortsighted to think that, you know, everybody’s got their team or their Alma Mater, and once that team’s out, they’re going to quit watching, or rooting for it because that doesn’t happen in NCAA basketball. Nor would it happen in football. They’d adopt another one to roof for somebody else. They would hang out in bars, they’d talk to their friends, they’d brag to their buddies when their team won and they pick them in there, buddy picked somebody else. That is the way you’d do it, it works out nearly perfect. And you don’t have to to add a week or any of this business.

Colby
Having four teams when there are five major conferences just makes zero sense.

Mike Leach
Well it makes no sense. And then in addition to that, there’s other good teams out there and the worst of it is they don’t necessarily, you know, a lot of these conferences are playing conference championship games. They don’t even necessarily take the conference champion. That’s even more, but if we did 64, you cut the regular season back to 10 games and then somewhere in the middle half of America’s teams have an off week and then half are playing. And then the next week the other half are off. And then you never have to play anybody that had an off week and you didn’t. And then as it starts to shake down at the end, everybody’s guaranteed 12 games. Everybody gets 12 games. So if somebody knows they’re not gonna make the 64, they start, start scheduling other 12 games. Cause after the 10, you make that an off week. And then they can schedule it up and get ready to play. And so you have football that week and then they sort out the 64. And then the first runs you do home and home.

Then after that, uh, you incorporate the Bowls for the rest of the games and a number of those bowls works out nearly perfectly. And then instead of being at the Bowl site a week, you’re at the Bowl site for like two days. The winner advances, which makes it crazy exciting. If you get eliminated early, you have another game, you have to have another game to play, what you can do in the natural breaks or you can do it on the Wednesday night, Thursday night. Then college football doesn’t just relinquish a whole month to the NFL where they’re not offering anything. Then in the end, the target number of games is 16, 16 for the champion. And then you could have the whole thing done on January 1st.

Ryan
I’ve heard you lay this out before and I’ve heard you point out that every other level of major football down to the high school level has figured this out. Has the NCAA ever kind of sent you guidelines on discussing the playoffs? Since you’re not exactly being subverted, but have you ever gotten, reached out to by them and then told to stand down?

Coach Leach
No, not at all. Occasionally you get the, you know, after the meetings or something, you know, everybody on board of this, and I’m generally quite supportive. But I reserve the right to my opinion on the playoffs. And the thing is the only entity you ever hear of that isn’t satisfied with their playoff system is Division One NCAA. Division One are the only ones that aren’t satisfied. And we’ve been dissatisfied for decades. And yet all you have to do is look either direction, the NFL or a Double AA or Division Three and everybody’s happy and people advanced and it’s incredibly exciting and it’s fulfilling. And, and then, you know, all the discussions on, with this team should have made it, that team shouldn’t have. I mean, the one thing that’s indisputable, if you make it through the gauntlet, then, you’ve earned it. Even if there was the lucky play or an unfortunate injury for somebody or something like that. And then wow just the excitement, it’s indisputable that would make more money and then the excitement level of it nationally I think could be overwhelming.

Sean
Speaking of money, I just saw on the news at the NCAA they kind of set up a group where they’re going to discuss a path for possibly paying athletes. What’s your opinion on that? Do you think that’s a reality? Do you think they should be compensated in some way?

Coach Leach
Well, they already are compensated, you know, I think a couple of things. I think one, the notion that they’re not compensated is ridiculous and now they get a cost of living stipend so they get more now than they ever have before. This, this business of a student athlete can’t afford to go to a movie or buy a pizza on the weekend. I mean, you give him per diem if you don’t serve meals on the weekend. In our case, we don’t serve meals on the weekend. We’d give them per diem for those days. And so does everybody else. And this business that, you know, these guys are broken, destitute. Well it’s just ridiculous. Then the occasional guy that’s broke that bought a car or sent a bunch of money home or something like that or lives in some really fancy house or something. Well that’s just bad money management, you know.

And then plus you agreed to the scholarship, the student athlete, not the whole family. So first of all, they are compensated. If they do want to compensate them more, I have no problem with that. I’m in favor of it. Compensate them more, but just don’t make it a bidding war. Make sure it’s not a bidding war and make sure everybody, gives the same amount to the same amount of slots because it’ll get extremely messy if one school can give more than another school. And so I think it needs to be standardized. If it is, I mean, give them all a million dollars. Just make it all the same, so everybody’s on equal footing because if you upset and obstruct the balance of things and already things aren’t as balanced say is the NFL. In the NFL, the difference between the best team talent wise and the worst team is a fairly narrow margin and it’s far closer than the team in our conference that has the most resources and the one that’s got the least.  I think it’s bad business to obstruct the balance of it, I don’t think you can afford to do that.

Sean
Speaking of bidding war, you are in college athletics trying to nail these big time recruits. Do you ever felt like you lost out on a recruit because he went somewhere where he may have been getting paid under the table? Do you ever worry about that? That you’re, you’re kind of competing in an unfair market?

Coach Leach
If we have, it’s anecdotal. Do I think teams out there cheat? Yeah, I think there’s a handful. I think there’s, I think there’s less than people think because I don’t think this has evolved into a basketball situation. I think there’s less than people think. I can probably count on one hand, um, maybe slightly more through my experience, which is shoot almost 30 years.

This is a rumor, I don’t know if it’s true or not. The latest scheme that I heard that some were using is they’ll funnel it through churches. Some donor gives the church a certain amount of money. The athlete attends the Church and then says he needs money and then finds his way into the money as it’s being laundered by, the church. But, I don’t know if that’s true. From my experience, I did not feel like, well in the Big 12, and I won’t mention who but I can think of one school that I do think that occasionally, occasionally paid players. The SEC has got the reputation for it. But it’s been a long time since I’d been in the SEC, I haven’t felt like for the most part, players were getting paid on the side and some of these schools, some of these schools that they’re talking about, you know, don’t really have the money to pay players.

Colby
I was following the, uh, the basketball probe with the FBI and, and it’s funny. Clemson’s assistant coach got fired, but he was on an FBI wiretap essentially, well it was vague, but he was essentially saying we can “do it like the football program, keep it really tight,” which I read as basically Clemson pays their players, allegedly.

Coach Leach
You know, I don’t know, cause I’m not, I’m not real close to the program and I don’t, I don’t know the details. It’s funny and I think, you know, sometimes football get a bad rep, you’ll have 120 players on the team and then somebody gets into some kind of mischief and then, you know, there’s a certain amount of national righteous indignation. Like, everybody’s a thug. Well, let me just say this, if you’ve got 120 nuns together, 120 angels together, 120 kindergartners together, somebody’s up to something. Yeah. So this notion that everybody’s perfect is just falls. I don’t know if they paid players or not. I would say ask that basketball coach, you know?

Sean
Yeah. Mike you just mentioned the Big 12. What do you think about Kliff Kingsbury going to the Cardinals? How do you see him making that adjustment?

Coach Leach
Well, I’m extremely happy for Kliff and I do think he’ll do well offensively. In some of those teams in the NFL, it’s kind of a loose term. Who’s the head coach? I mean somebody has got the title. But if you hire all the assistants and you have control of the 53 man roster, then you’re the head coach. If you don’t have those things and you have a distinguished position coach and very possibly, a good fulfilling job you have something, but you’re not the head coach.

Colby
What do you think though in general of like the Kingsbury hire from the Cardinal’s standpoint, from the Chiefs to all across the college football landscape using your offense. How do you feel seeing that happen? You’ve got to feel this is great. The air raid offense, it’s been proven successful and it’s changing the game.

Coach Leach
Well, I think that’s accurate. I think that’s accurate. And several colleges jumped on board. I think it’s really flourished in the high schools. And then the NFL has been in it longer than that. I think people realize that sometimes reported, cause I think sometimes the people following and reporting on the NFL, have some notions that don’t necessarily get a updated in a timely fashion along with scouts.

But if you think about the last two Super Bowls, there’s been air raid concepts in both games. Then look around the country in the NFL, look at New Orleans, look at Kansas City, look at the Green Bay, look at New England for sure. New England was one of the first, I think, because look at New England, when Bill Belichick first got there offensively and look at him now, I had the pleasure of coaching Wes Welker then when they traded for Wes Welker, all of a sudden I saw some familiar plays out there and I don’t think was Wes calling any plays.

I just think here’s a good way to utilize Wes. Then I think the Philadelphia Eagles for sure, the team that I thought would never fall because you know, they’re in the thick of it all the time. The Pittsburgh Steelers in there and they were in the thick of it when they’re busting heads and now the Steelers are throwing it all over the park. So if even the Pittsburgh Steelers do it, they’ll all do it.

Colby
A lot of that is from you man.

Coach Leach
It goes to the Denver Broncos.

Ryan
Yeah. Love the offense. Love, love you being our number one coach. And before we let you get out of here, we got to ask you, we were talking playoffs earlier. Who is the number one seed in the pirate play off?

Coach Leach
That’s a tough question. One that I liked the most because he was just a vicious, horrible, disloyal guy and turned on his men was a Henry Morgan. But a fascinating story, very successful and basically went unscathed. Probably the most efficient in the finest operation with an untimely death was a Black Bart Bartholomew Roberts. And then the, the most charismatic, the most fascinating fun is to watch, of course Blackbeard. For me it’s either Blackbeard, let’s say this Blackbeard and Barthelemy Robertson, the finals. If it becomes hand to hand I got to go with Black beard, but if they can maneuver and keep their distance, I’m going with Bartholomew Roberts.

Sean
Appreciate your time Mike Leach and make sure you give a coach Leach of follow on Twitter @Coach_Leach and you can check out all his books over on Amazon and we appreciate the time coach. Good luck this year.

Coach Leach
Thanks. Appreciate, that. Those books are still selling well on Amazon. The ‘Swing Your Sword’, which is my path into coaching and ‘Geronimo: Leadership Strategies Of An American Warrior’ where we talk about the life of Geronimo.

Colby
That’s pretty awesome. I got, I got to check those out. We appreciate everything and best of luck on the season. I’m going to try and get up to a game. I went to the USC game earlier or last year. I thought you guys had that one actually, but I’ve got to get up the Pullman sometime.

Coach Leach
Well we definitely should have won that game and yeah come up any time. I’ll show you guys around and hope we can do this again sometime.

Sean
Awesome. Will do.

The Sports Gambling Podcast has been giving out lead pipe locks in the world of sports since 2011. Created by Philadelphia native Sean Green (@SeanTGreen) and New Jersey's own Ryan Kramer (@KramerCentric). SUBSCRIBE ON ITUNES | SPOTIFY | SOUNDCLOUD

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