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Mississippi State coach Mike Leach says rash firings in college football have 2 roots

Himself fired in 2009 by Texas Tech, Leach says 'People are nuts' and 'mental illness' has the sport turned upside down
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College football's Football Bowls Subdivision level still has two weeks left in its regular season, plus conference championship games the first weekend of December and the classic Army-Navy matchup on Dec. 11.

There's quite a bit of football left.

But that isn't stopping the frenzied coaching firing and hiring season from already ramping up throughout the sport. The carousel has been spinning since early-season firings at UConn, USC and Georgia Southern, with the USC opening still vacant.

In sum, there already has been 12 changes atop FBS programs, from both Washington and Washington State to most recently Virginia Tech.

Mississippi State coach Mike Leach, himself once fired amidst some controversy at Texas Tech after the 2009 season, offered his thoughts Wednesday on the dynamic in the sport.

“Because people are nuts,” Leach said on the Southeastern Conference coaches' teleconference when asked about the high turnover-rate in the industry. “First of all, I think things go in trends. General societal mental illness, I think, and I think the other thing that contributes to it, and the same thing has happened with (athletics directors), it's almost like there's been a bounty on A.D.s. Then as a result there's been one on coaches, too.

“I think that, to me, it seems like when people were all stuck at home with COVID (in 2020), they had all this nervous energy, and you saw a bunch of A.D.s and coaches fired that hadn't coached a game for that season. [Like people said] 'Well, we're not doing anything so let's fire somebody.'”

To Leach's point, the 2020 college football coaching carousel started spinning Labor Day weekend with change atop the Southern Miss program, and it did not truly complete its cycle until the final trio of Kansas, Buffalo and Ohio.

The Jayhawks parted with Les Miles amidst residual scandal from Miles' tenure at LSU, and they replaced him with Buffalo's Lance Leipold, who was replaced by Maurice Linguist. Ohio's Frank Solich retired mid-July and replaced on staff by Tim Albin.

Leach pointed to both the Pro Football Hall of Fame – and the cornfields – to illustrate why he believed the trend is a disturbing one.

“I don't think it's productive,” Leach said. “If you're a farmer, and you go out and say, 'I wanna grow corn,' and it grows six inches, and you say, 'Well, it didn't grow fast enough' so yank up it out of the ground ground … There's coach after coach in the NFL Hall of Fame that back in the day if they were held to that standard (of immediately winning), they wouldn't be there.”

Leach indicated technology – specifically, a growing reliance on cell phones to communicate via social media – rather than interpersonal communication was a root cause.

“I think there's probably a number of things,” Leach said. “I haven't thought about this very much till ( a reporter) asked me, I think the addiction to machines is part of it. Then instead of people, one communicating with one another, two, making their decisions based on kind of independent thought, I think a lot of times machines and social media do the thinking for people, and I don't think that's very healthy.”

Leach has his Mississippi State ranked No. 25 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings and has notched wins this season against Auburn, Kentucky, N.C. State and Texas A&M – all teams that are ranked or have been ranked this season.

The Bulldogs close their season with Football Championship Subdivision team Tennessee State on Saturday before hosting rival and CFP No. 12 Ole Miss on Thanksgiving night.