Mississippi State takes on Illinois in Monday’s ReliaQuest Bowl when the loaded bowl slate begins Jan. 2, and during the matchup the team will pay tribute to former coach Mike Leach’s legacy with special helmets designed in his honor pay. The school announced just before launch that the team would wear maroon helmets with a white pirate flag in honor of Leach, who was known to have had an interest in the history of pirate life.
Leach died on December 13 at the age of 61 from complications from a heart condition. He had been hospitalized two days earlier after suffering an illness at home.
Below you can take a look at the helmets the Bulldog players will wear against the Fighting Illini on Monday.
As the game began, Mississippi State received the opening kick, once again honoring their late coach. The Bulldogs lined up in an air-raid formation and let the game clock run down to zero in a minute’s silence. Illinois denied delaying the game penalty.
Leach took the job at Mississippi State after former coach Dan Mullen left for Florida. Leach led the Bulldogs 19-17 in three seasons, including a 24-22 win over rival Ole Miss at the Egg Bowl in his last game. He was 158-107 overall with stints at Texas Tech (2000-09) and Washington State (2012-19).
He was widely known as the architect of the air assault offensive that distributed receivers and used the short passing game as a complement to the running game. He developed the offense with Hal Mumme when the two worked together in Kentucky (1997-98). Leach was a three-time National Coach of the Year and a three-time Power Five Conference Coach of the Year. He won two Power Five division titles and led his teams to 19 bowl games during his 21-year head coaching career.