Seventeen years ago Texas Tech was preparing to embark on their first season in thirteen years without Spike Dykes at the helm. The coach Texas Tech turned to in replacing Dykes was a progressive offensive coordinator from Oklahoma who wasn't from the classic coaching mold. Mike Leach was a lawyer, he hadn't played the game since high school in Cody, Wyoming. Leach had learned his craft in places like Cal Poly, Iowa Wesleyan, Valdosta State, and Finland. Yes, Finland. But more importantly Mike Leach was an offensive innovator who set about doing things his own way. Usually through the air.
When he joined the Big 12 it was an I-formation league, Nebraska and their triple option were kings, Texas was rising thanks to power running tailbacks, Oklahoma was in year two of their rebuild under Bob Stoops, and A&M was known for...gulp...defense. By the time Leach left, rather unceremoniously, he had helped reshape the league into an offensive extravaganza. His detractors said his gimmick offense would never win long term. The fad would wear off. More, when it went up against real football squads, i.e. the ones that called Austin, Norman, and College Station home, it would fail. His detractors were wrong of course. Leach took Tech to the cusp of the BCS and his teams regularly made the blue bloods of the Big 12 look foolish.
Now as Leach continues to reshape Washington State, the rest of the country is feeling his influence. His first staff at Tech included current West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, former Baylor coach Art Briles, and former Cal coach Sonny Dykes. His quarterback was Kliff Kingsbury, now the head coach at Tech. Sonny Combie, offensive coordinator at TCU, was a backup quarterback on the roster.
Before he left Tech, Leach brought on future North Texas head man Seth Littrell, and future East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeil. Former walk-on Lincoln Riley is the head coach at Oklahoma. One of Leach's most talented quarterbacks is running the offense at North Texas, Graham Harrell. Neal Brown, the head coach at Troy, played in Leach's offense at Kentucky.
Leach's proteges multiplied the movement as well. Art Briles was succeeded by Kevin Sumlin at Houston . Holgorsen and Kingsbury were on Sumlins' Houston staff. At Oklahoma State Holgorsen coached with Doug Meacham who later worked with Cumbie at TCU and now runs the offense at Kansas.
As they've gone, Leach's assistants and their progeny have developed, tweaked, and copied his offensive ideas and principles. The Big 12 will open 2017 with half of its membership tracing their offensive identity to Leach and those Texas Tech staffs.
Mike Leach meanwhile left Tech as the winningest coach in school history. Ousted in many ways by his own refusal of conformity. Since his departure the Red Raiders have struggled to replicate his success.
Part of the problem has been the exploitation of the market inefficiencies that were once so revolutionary. It's similar to the proliferation of money ball principles first applied by the Oakland A's. Once the Red Sox, Cubs, Rays, Yankees et al read the manual, it's became almost impossible for the A's to catch lightening in a bottle twice. Once Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and even Texas started to use forms of the secret sauce, it's become harder for Tech to find another cutting edge.
Leach himself has run into he same problem on the left coast. He is a victim of his own success with the PAC 12 being early adopters of his philosophies. Leach has to take some pride in that. He also needs to receive some credit.