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Kentucky Football: Remembering when fans wanted Mitch Barnhart to hire Mike Leach

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Should Kentucky and Mitch Barnhart have any regrets passing on Mike Leach?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Remember when we were searching for a head coach back in 2012?

Many in the Big Blue Nation were hoping that Mitch Barnhart would hire Mike Leach. Barnhart would have none of that and, instead, hired Florida State’s defensive coordinator Mark Stoops.

Leach was Kentucky's offensive coordinator under Hal Mumme back in the 90s and is the one of the most controversial coaches in the college game. Under Mumme and Leach, Kentucky put up gaudy offensive numbers with the Air Raid offense.  They developed Tim Couch into the NFL's No. 1-overall draft pick in 1999. Leach left Kentucky when Couch left and became the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma.  Mumme's offense continued to put up those gaudy offensive numbers under Mumme and OCs Chris Hatcher and Tony Franklin.

In 1997, the Mumme and Leach duo turned "the Deuce" loose and broke or tied 51 school records on offense and 15 SEC records. The trio took Kentucky to its first New Year's Day bowl in 47 years in the Outback Bowl in Tampa against Penn St.

Craig Yeast became the all-time leading pass catcher during that season. One can say that Mumme's Air Raid was the cause of the last Commonwealth Stadium expansion in 1998. Couch took Kentucky to another bowl in 1998 in his final season.

The problem with Mumme was he ran a very loose ship and was eventually fired due to recruiting violations by his staff, particularly Claude Bassett. Another problem was that Kentucky couldn't play a lick of defense. Mumme preferred to outscore his opponents. More often than not, that simply didn't happen because the Wildcats couldn't stop anyone.

Quarterbacks Dusty Bonner and Jared Lorenzen kept the Cats near the top offensively, but the Cats were always near the bottom of the NCAA stats when it came to defense. Leach and Mumme are considered the godfathers of the Air Raid offense as they developed the system at Valdosta State and Kentucky. When Leach left for Oklahoma, the Mumme coaching tree was established.

Leach was hired by Bob Stoops, but left to become the head coach at Texas Tech after one year. His protégé, Mark Mangino took Oklahoma's offense to a national championship. The Stoops defense and the Air Raid were responsible for that national title.

At Texas Tech, Leach was very successful....for a while. He took the Red Raiders to nine win seasons in 2002, 2005 and 2007 and an 11 win season in 2008. In that year, Texas Tech beat Texas, Baylor, and Texas A&M and finished off the season with a 55-15 win over Clemson in the Tangerine Bowl. The Red Raiders led the NCAA in passing yardage four years in a row. Is it any wonder that many in the BBN wanted Leach to come back as the head coach?

All was not well, however, at Texas Tech as Leach became more outspoken and became known as "The Pirate." Leach, like Mumme, had become arrogant more and more in his dealings with the press and the Texas Tech administration. He was suspended by the administration pending an investigation over his treatment of Adam James, son of ESPN analyst Craig James. The whole thing turned into litigation and Leach was fired. Here's Wikipedia's version of his time off between Texas Tech and his hiring at Washington State:

In August 2010, Leach joined CBS College Sports Network, where he worked as a color analyst with play-by-play announcer Roger Twibell.[62]

In 2010, Leach joined host Jack Arute to co-host "College Football Playbook" on SiriusXM College Sports Nation Channel 91, which airs weekdays 12 pm - 3 pm ET.[63]

In 2011, Leach released an autobiographical book, Swing Your Sword: Leading the Charge in Football and in Life, through Diversion Books.[64][65] The book debuted at #6 on The New York Times Best Seller list.[66]

Leach was considered by many in the national media to be a candidate for the head coaching vacancies at University of Miami, University of Maryland, and University of Minnesota following the 2010 regular season. After at least two interviews at Maryland, he was considered the frontrunner for that job until the administration decided instead to hire Randy Edsall away from University of Connecticut. Leach was mentioned in connection with a number of other vacancies in head-coaching positions during 2011, including Washington State, Arizona, Ole Miss, Kansas, Penn State, and Tulane.[67] [68]

He signed a contract with Washington State in November 2011 to begin coaching for the 2012 season. His first season ended with a 3-9 record amid more player abuse controversies. This was Joker Phillips' final season after going 2-10.

Since then, Washington State's record certainly hasn't matched Leach's record at Texas Tech. The Cougars went 6-7 in 2013 and 3-9 in 2014. Portland State had a 3-9 record in 2014 and lost to Washington State 59-21 and fellow PAC 12 Oregon State 29-14.

Contrast that with Stoops who has gone 2-10 and 5-7 since his hiring. In their season opener, Washington State lost to Portland State (Big Sky Conference) 24-17 in front of a home crowd of 24,302 last weekend. Kentucky beat Louisiana-Lafayette (Sunbelt Conference) 40-33 in front of a capacity crowd at Commonwealth Stadium. Kentucky led 24-7 at the half.

In the NCAA stats, Washington State ranks 34th in Passing Offense, 93rd in Rushing Offense, 70th in Total Offense and 93rd in Scoring Offense. Kentucky ranks 50th in Passing Offense, 74th in Rushing Offense, 61st in Total Offense and 41st in Scoring Offense. Defensively, Washington State ranks 7th Pass Defense, 108th in Rush Defense, 43rd in Total Defense and 70th in Scoring Defense. Kentucky ranks 73rd in Pass Defense, 112th in Rush Defense, 98th in Total Defense and 87th in Scoring Defense. Washington State has a turnover margin of -2.00 while Kentucky's turnover margin is +3.00.

CBS sports thinks Leach is the most overpaid coach in college football and he now ranks #20 on The Coaches Hot Seat. This could very well be his last season at Washington State.

In 2012, Washington State ranked #56 in Rivals team  recruiting rankings while Kentucky ranked 63rd. In 2013, Kentucky ranked 29th in 2013 while Washington State ranked 53rd. In 2014, Kentucky ranked 17th while Washington State ranked 70th. In 2015, Washington State ranked 55th while Kentucky was 35th. In the current recruiting cycle (2016), Kentucky ranks 15th with 22 firm commitments while Washington State stands at 57th with 14 commitments. In the current Sagarin Ratings, Kentucky ranks 60th while Washington State ranks 98th.

Leach can't seem to keep away from controversy. Washington State travels to New Jersey this weekend to play Rutgers. Apparently, Leach was critical of New Jersey high school football. You can read the reaction in New Jersey here (H/T to Next Cats). This makes me wonder if the BBN's Swing Your Sword crowd would still rather have Leach over Mark Stoops.

If so, all I can say is "Arrrggghhhh!" Ya gotta be kidding!