Mike Leach, the current head coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs football program, recently spoke at SEC Media Days on Wednesday and referenced the time that he was a candidate for the Tennessee job in 2017.
“I talked to Tennessee,” Leach said at SEC Media Days. “Nothing ever got nailed down. Then pretty soon they had a coup d’etat there. You can sort that out amongst yourselves but that’s pretty well documented. I didn’t end up in the middle of the coup. Lucky for me.”
During the infamous coaching search at Tennessee in 2017, Mike Leach was approached but never ended up nailing things down, to use his words. In fact, it was Jeremy Pruitt that was hired by the newly appointed Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer that year.
In what has turned into a famous story, then-Director of Athletics John Currie had a secret flight for a meeting with Leach, who was the coach of Washington State at the time. However, when Currie returned to Knoxville from his meeting, he was removed from the position shortly after.
Text messages and emails were exchanged among University of Tennessee personnel during the shocking situation. Which all combined, eventually led to a settlement with Currie. Tennessee ended up paying John Currie $2.5 million in March of 2018 with the settlement. Currie is now the AD at Wake Forest.
Tennessee’s 2017 coaching search was nothing short of off-the-wall, and Leach was another piece in that equation. Leach did not get offered the Tennessee head coach role, and instead returned to Washington State. Then, on Jan. 9, 2020, Leach made his move to the SEC official. Leach took over the Mississippi State program and is now entering his second year with the Bulldogs.
Mike Leach, at SEC Media Days, didn’t speak long about Tennessee during his main room press conference. But he sure did stir the pot, as Leach said that the “coup d’etat” got in the way of a job at Tennessee.
The Tennessee football program was a hot topic amongst people who have had a tie to Tennessee at SEC Media Days, though. Even former Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin detailed his expectations for his return to Knoxville in 2021 with Ole Miss.