Report: Mississippi State expected to promote Arnett to head coach

Published 4:40 pm Wednesday, December 14, 2022

STARKVILLE (AP) — Mississippi State is promoting defensive coordinator Zach Arnett to head coach to replace Mike Leach, who died suddenly of a heart condition earlier this week.

Mississippi State was working to finalize a four-year contract with the 36-year-old Arnett, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because a deal had not yet been completed. ESPN first reported the move.

Leach, 61, died Monday night at a Jackson hospital after falling gravely ill at his home on Sunday.

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Arnett was put in charge of the team by Mississippi State officials in Leach’s absence. With the early signing period a week away and the transfer portal active, Mississippi State was motivated to move quickly to put a new coach in place. The Bulldogs also play Illinois in the Reliaquest Bowl on Jan. 2.

Arnett has been Leach’s defensive coordinator since he took the head coaching job at Mississippi State in 2020. He was named the interim coach immediately after Leach fell ill on Sunday.

On Tuesday, Mississippi State interim athletic director Bracky Brett told The Associated Press that the Bulldogs would play in their bowl game in honor of Leach.

Brett said bowl practices started last week and the players were scheduled to have a few days off while the coaches recruited before getting back together later this week. The team is scheduled to travel to Tampa on Dec. 27.

“Our players are excited about going to the ReliaQuest Bowl and they will play in honor of Coach Leach,” Brett said. “They want to finish the job that they started together and they know that’s exactly what Mike would want them to do.”

Brett said Mississippi State would also hold a memorial for Leach on campus, but when was still be to determined. He said the school first wanted to consult with Leach’s relatives and allow them to make their own arrangements for services first.