HOOVER, Ala. — Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach on Wednesday called for a 64-team College Football Playoff, said he avoided a “coup d’état” at Tennessee and predictably dodged a question about whether he’d been vaccinated for COVID-19.
In other words, his appearance at Southeastern Conference Media Days at The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama, went about as expected.
Leach was joined by linebacker Aaron Brule and Austin Williams for the Bulldogs’ media days session Wednesday at the annual summer event that was canceled last season because of COVID-19.
And from his opening statement — if you can call it that — the second-year MSU coach made up for lost time.
“Alright, I’m not a big opening statement guy, and plus you guys are going to ask whatever you want to know anyway, so let’s just go ahead and get started,” Leach said as he stepped behind the lectern. “Are there any questions?”
There were. Plenty of them. And Leach was his typical eccentric self in answering them, reserving just a few seconds for inquiries he didn’t like while going into depth on a number of issues.
He was equally comfortable spending 214 words describing what makes a successful SEC quarterback — and ending his answer by pointing out the excessive brightness of the lights shined in his face — as shutting down questions about the coronavirus in just a couple short sentences.
“If I was or I wasn’t, I wouldn’t share it with you,” Leach replied upon being asked if he was vaccinated against COVID. “But again, we leave that to the doctors and anybody’s doctor or care provider.”
The coach told local media earlier Wednesday he hadn’t had discussions with his team about seeking vaccination and wouldn’t say if the Bulldogs had met the SEC’s 80 percent threshold, a benchmark six schools — including Georgia and Alabama — have already crossed.
“We let the doctors handle all that, so I don’t have anything to do with that,” Leach said during his main media session. “We let the guys that know what they’re doing handle it.”
He was more verbose on topics like name, image and likeness legislation, saying players should have to stay at their original schools without transferring and receive endorsement money upon graduation.
Leach said there are currently “way too many” players in the NCAA transfer portal. (SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said Monday there are some 1,100 FBS football players currently seeking a new destination.)
“I think too often there’s a temptation to cut and run,” Leach said. “I don’t think that’s always the best course because you learn a lot by persevering and sitting in there and pushing through adversity.”
Leach said he talked to Tennessee about coaching the Volunteers in 2017 after six seasons at Washington State, but he said “nothing ever got nailed down” — for which Leach believes he was lucky.
“Pretty soon, they had a coup d’état there,” Leach said. “You guys can sort that among yourselves, but that’s pretty well-documented. So, yeah, I didn’t end up in the middle of the coup, so lucky for me.”
Later Wednesday, when asked about the rumored expansion of the College Football Playoff from four teams to 12, Leach went a step further.
“It’s never enough,” he said. “I’ll tell you, Dr. (Mark) Keenum, our president, is on that committee, so I know they’re in good hands. I think that part’s outstanding. I think 12 teams is a huge step in the right direction. I personally would like to see 64, and you could format it out pretty easily, but I think it’s a huge step in the right direction, and I look forward to it.”
Leach, who taught a class titled “Insurgent Warfare and Football Strategies” at Washington State, was also asked if he’d considered teaching in Starkville as well as the difference between the two activities.
“If you get ticked off in coaching, you can pace off in a variety of directions, and you don’t get in trouble for swearing as much in coaching,” said Leach, who noted he had talked about reprising his professorial role at Mississippi State. “So coaching does definitely have its advantages.”
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.