Share “Mike Leach left a legacy at OU”

by Berry Tramel Published: November 17, 2008
Come Saturday night, Mike Leach will have coached as many games at Owen Field wearing Texas Tech red and black as Oklahoma crimson and cream.

Count them. Leach has been gone nine years from Soonerville. This is his fifth Tech team to play at Owen Field; OU had five home games in 1999, the year Leach coordinated the Sooner offense.

The year Leach changed Oklahoma football history.

The week of the biggest OU-Tech game ever — the week of the biggest Anybody-Tech game ever — seems like a good time to pinpoint Leach’s Sooner legacy.

It’s stout. Stout enough to be mentioned along with Jim Tatum and Jim Mackenzie, other one-year wonders whose footprints still can be found today.

Leach sat on the OU payroll just 360 days. But in that momentous year, Leach mimicked what head coaches Tatum and Mackenzie did. Changed a culture and brought in a program-changing face.

In 1946, Tatum upgraded OU’s talent and expectations with the influx of a war-veteran recruiting class that immediately made the Sooners nationally competitive. Tatum also brought along an assistant coach. Bud Wilkinson.

In 1966, after almost 20 years of a Wilkinson/Gomer Jones administration, Mackenzie ushered in the era of a bright, brash, young staff. Among Mackenzie’s protégés: Barry Switzer.

And in December 1998, Leach arrived to run Bob Stoops’ offense, and since no quarterback on campus had pedigree, Leach found his own. Which he did: Josh Heupel.

OU no longer runs Leach’s offense. But Leach’s general philosophy — spread formation, throw as often as you want — has fermented in Norman, where the run game ruled for almost a century.

Stoops freely handed Leach the reins. Stoops hired no Leach lieutenants, but "I was really emphatic that anyone we hired offensively, they understood, this is what we’re doing,” Stoops said. "I’m not looking for a conglomeration of ideas. We’re not going to mush everything together.”

Leach’s other lasting impact came in quarterbacks. BLOG: Leach at OU? Why not?

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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