Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Hal Mumme coaching tree fruitful … and includes Mike Leach


A 24-hour drive to the northwest, in a town called Pullman, Wash., a college campus teeters on the verge of euphoria much like our town does.

For the moment, Wazzu, not Mizzou, ranks as the biggest rival to Kansas University, and the school isn’t even on the Jayhawks’ schedule.

The fan bases of WSU and KU want the same thing. They want to hear their respective athletic directors step to a podium and announce Mike Leach as the next head coach.

Many in the industry read the fact that Washington State athletic director Bill Moos said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference that Leach is on his “very short list,” as Moos being confident he will land the former Texas Tech coach. Otherwise, why would he set up the Wazzu fans for disappointment by mentioning his name? One hopeful for the Washington State job was told by a Wazzu insider that it was too late, that Leach had been identified as the school’s choice.

Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger takes a more stealth approach to hiring coaches and doesn’t publicly discuss names.

Leach became such a hot commodity not by sharing his fascination with pirates or by blasting his players for listening to their “fat little girlfriends” or by suing ESPN, the network’s analyst Craig James and Texas Tech. He’s the hottest candidate on the market because he knows how to put huge offensive numbers on the board.

For a look at what makes Leach’s “Air Raid” offense tick, I placed a phone call to the man under whom Leach and so many other football coaches learned it. Leach worked for Hal Mumme at Valdosta State and Kentucky. West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen, Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes (a possible KU candidate) and Murray State’s Chris Hatcher also fell from the Mumme coaching tree.

Mumme, who reversed Kentucky’s fortunes by going 18-17 in his first three seasons (1997-1999), was fired after a poor fourth season undermined by an NCAA investigation that resulted in a postseason ban and loss of scholarships. From there, he coached at Southeastern Louisiana and New Mexico State.

Mumme just completed his third season at McMurry University, a Division III school in Abilene, Texas. He inherited a team that had gone 0-8 in 2008 and played in front of crowds too small to be called crowds. His team had an eight-game winning streak this season, scoring 63, 50, 41, 60, 24, 49, 63 and 25 points during it. The team qualified for the postseason for the first time in school history and won a playoff game. McMurry moves to Division II next season and is building a new stadium.

No man is more responsible for revolutionizing the way college football is played today than Mumme, and he’s coaching in the shadows and winning big.

“Abilene’s a great place,” Mumme said. “It’s a lot like Mayberry — full-service filling station and a drive-in picture show. How many football coaches can say that to a recruit’s mom?”

So many branches of Mumme’s tree inherited his magical knack for taking over losing programs and turning them around by recruiting the right quarterbacks into a quarterback-friendly system and putting them through practices not quite like any others.

In a typical football practice, Mumme said, a receiver will catch maybe one or two thrown balls every 10 minutes.

“In our practices, in a 10-minute period, our receivers will catch 75 or 80 balls,” Mumme said.

Every time a receiver runs a route, Mumme said, he is thrown the ball and required to run it all the way into the end zone. Five footballs will be in the air at one time and five receivers will be running to the end zone after catching them.

“That’s the reason we score a lot,” Mumme said. “We practice scoring all the time. We expect to score because we did it on every play in practice.”

His passion for his job remains as high as ever.

“A 19-year-old at McMurry isn’t any more or any less important than a 19-year-old at the University of Texas,” Mumme said. “They’re here to get an education and play football, and it’s a chance for me to create great offense, which is what I enjoy doing. I love Saturday afternoons. I don’t care if 50,000 are watching or 5,000.”

So how does he score so many points everywhere he goes?

Finding the right quarterback is a must in making the Air Raid offense go.

Mumme agreed that the key to recruiting is not selling, rather thoroughly evaluating a quarterback’s physical and mental abilities.

“Good leaders, good team guys who have all the intangibles,” Mumme said. “That’s more important than arm strength, size or speed.”

How are the intangibles evaluated?

“For me, I want to see his grades,” Mumme said. “What kind of person is he? I want to know the team likes him. Will they follow him? Usually, if you talk to the offensive linemen, they’ll tell you the truth. They’re the most unselfish and tend to be the most honest guys on a football team, so I ask them.”

The tangibles?

“In our system, he has to have a great pocket feel, a quick release, has to be able to see the field and has to have a great passion for what we do,” Mumme said. “Is he going to be the guy who stays late, the guy who gets everybody together to do extra throwing and catching and watching film? That’s how they get to be great. It’s not just God-given ability.”

Judging a quarterback’s field vision is best done at camps, where Mumme said he likes to stand behind the quarterback and see what he sees. He’ll even sit them in a chair and perform a peripheral-vision test. Judging how fast the ball comes out of the quarterback’s hands is another skill best judged in person, he said.

He has no playbook and said quarterbacks can learn the offense in three days and then master it by getting more reps daily in practice. After three times through that cycle, or to put it another way, after nine workouts, Mumme said, “You get a pretty good feel if a guy can play.”

Leach is the most proven of the Mumme disciples, but far from the only successful one.

“Sonny Dykes won the WAC with a freshman at quarterback,” in his second year at the school, Mumme pointed out. “Dana Holgorsen. Chris Hatcher. Chris Hatcher’s a great football coach.”

If the next Kansas coach falls off the Mumme tree, fun Saturdays are on the horizon.


manginorh00lz 10 years, 5 months ago

WSU somehow manages to always, and I mean always, appear on College Gameday.

BillSelf4Prez 10 years, 5 months ago

ya what is up with that? There is always at least one flag wherever they go and sometimes three different flags.

hawk316 10 years, 5 months ago

Let's hope WSU wins the battle for Leach.

hawk316 10 years, 5 months ago

Mr. Keegan, with all due respect, I don't believe that you speak for the entire KU fan base. You state...

"The fan bases of WSU and KU want the same thing. They want to hear their respective athletic directors step to a podium and announce Mike Leach as the next head coach."

Perhaps, it would be more accurate to state that you, Mr. Keegan, along with some KU fans, want Mike Leach as the next football coach. I (and I am certainly not alone) do NOT want Leach as coach. I am concerned that he carries way too much baggage, and I suspect that there are better choices out there. I'm sincerely hoping that Zenger takes the time to find them.

Dirk Medema 10 years, 5 months ago

Sonny Dykes?

Didn't realize he was a Memmeian. Could he be a the next Leach, Holgorsen, ...?

Andy Tweedy 10 years, 5 months ago

They're being stupid in the Palouse by naming all their coaching candidates publicly like this. Nebraska did the same thing when they hired Bill Callahan and it was a public relations nightmare. If you get your guy, that's great. But if you don't, you just look like a complete moron. Nebraska hired Dave wait, Houston wait, Bill Callahan. People get frustrated by the lack of news, but SZ is playing this one the right way.

RockCaCO3 10 years, 5 months ago

SZ is playing it right similar to how he "played" the Big 12 realignment soap opera. I have faith in the man.

actorman 10 years, 5 months ago

Thank you for being a voice of reason, rockchalk.

It's the same thing as when Misuse talked about the Big 10 being their top choice and the SEC being the backup: they look like idiots now. (Oh wait, we're talking about Misuse; they always look like idiots. Never mind.)

Dyrk Dugan 10 years, 5 months ago

Mumme and Leach were both highly influenced by Lavell Edwards...the head coach at BYU. Leach graduated there....and then he and Mumme both developed this offense together at three schools.....Iowa Wesleyan, Valdosta St. and then Kentucky.

this is the modern spread offense folks....that's what we're witnessing all over the place. KU ran its version under Ed Warriner and MM.....Mizzou still runs it now with Dave Yost as their OC...and OU and OSU have their versions.

it's a great legacy to much influence of a particular system....but you still have to deal with people the right way. and until Leach drops the lawsuits....or there is a plan in place to settle them...i don't see how any institution can hire him.

actorman 10 years, 5 months ago

Suing someone because you got fired for "cause" a day before a huge payment was due to be made -- and based on the word of one player and his influential father -- should have no bearing whatsoever on whether another place would hire you, especially when you've been as successful as he's been.

pepper_bar 10 years, 5 months ago

Another day, another Keegan column desperately trying to market Mike Leach to Lawrence. Three days in a row and counting now.

hawk316 10 years, 5 months ago

You're right, Pepper. Keegan is obviously pushing hard for Leach. He certainly has a right to his opinion, but I happen to disagree that Leach would be the best choice, although, undoubtedly, he would provide good copy for LJW writers.

Brian Zachary 10 years, 5 months ago

Hi! First time poster but long time lurker. I felt compelled to post something here this morning because of some of the many comments I have read in this post and posts past. Basically, I am fed up with the questioning of AD Zenger. "He better fire this guy. He better get us in this conference. He needs to be aggressive now. etc, etc, etc." Please, let the man do his freakin' job! I am positive the he will vet all the candidates and hire who he believes is BEST for the UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS. It may not be the coach that you have been sitting at your computer fantasizing over but that coach maybe the best fit LONGTERM. Zenger may find a coach on the cheap and actually may stick around. Please, let the grown ups do there job. There is nothing that Zenger has done to show me he is incompitent or a double agent for KSU. He has shown to talk less and do more quietly. And I for one respect that. We aren't in the MAAC, he hasn't fired Bill Self, and the KU isn't a rec center. No need to panic until we have more time as a fanbase properly judge.

Andy Tweedy 10 years, 5 months ago

+1...except that my small little mind was grossed out by the "sitting at your computer fantasizing over" line!

actorman 10 years, 5 months ago

LOL! But good post, Briezy, and welcome to the board. I guess we shouldn't be surprised in this "short attention span" era when people rush to judgment, but it's ridiculous how much people are assuming about Zenger when only a select few have any idea what's really going on.

Andy Tweedy 10 years, 5 months ago

Man, I LOVE the Andy Kaufman avatar!!! AWESOME!

gchawk 10 years, 5 months ago

"The fan base wants the same thing.............". Keegan, you obviously are the self appointed representative of the KU fan base, but I have news for you sparky, not all of us are as enamored with Leach as you are. Personally, I'd like to hear more chatter about Fedora, Peterson, or Venables.

kugrad93 10 years, 5 months ago

Don't worry. Keegan has at least one more Leach column in him.

ottomark 10 years, 5 months ago

Funny...When Keegan writes a really strong, informative article that provides insight, no one tells him so.. This is one of those articles.

actorman 10 years, 5 months ago

I agree, ottomark. In fact, I had planned on posting that this was one of TK's better columns, but then I got distracted by the usual blather of others' posts -- as opposed to my brilliance, of course.

actorman 10 years, 5 months ago

And BTW, speaking of blather, to those of you who keep referring to Keegan pushing Leach three days in a row, I suppose you're somewhat right, but this column referred to several others as well. It was more about Mumme's coaching tree than it was specifically about Leach. But hey, never let the details get in the way of another chance to rip Keegan.

LAJayhawk 10 years, 5 months ago

Splitting hairs, actorman. Each headline contained the word Leach, and each associated article covered him to a fairly significant extent. The criticism is more than valid.

I do think there was information out there for Keegan to cover on Leach, and seeing as Leach was the most newsworthy candidate (the one most seemed to favor), it was definitely his job to write about it. However, there are a number of other coaches who deserved a similar conversation, and, as it turns out, one of those coaches will be OUR coach. I don't mean to speak for others, but I don't think it's a stretch to assume those criticizing him simply wish he would have devoted some of that time to other possible candidates.

And, BTW, when Keegan has written good pieces, I have not only said so on the comment section, but also sent him a personal email informing him of such. Since I can bag on him from time to time, I felt it only fair to tell him when I thought he did good work... and I signed my name. So any criticism I give him is not anonymous.

And I also welcome him to criticize my opinions, if he has the time. He has offered a response to me on a couple of occasions, which I do appreciate.

actorman 10 years, 5 months ago

Fair enough, LA. I've certainly criticized TK on occasion myself. And I'm sure he appreciates you writing personal notes to him.

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