Why not Leach?

Lady Vol coach Pat Summitt was talking basketball 35 years ago when she surmised that "Offense sells tickets, defense wins games," but the quote applies just as accurately to football.

That's why Vanderbilt should check into hiring pass-happy Mike Leach as its new football coach. With academic standards that are too high and a commitment level that is too low, the Commodores won't win a lot of games no matter who is at the helm, so they might as well focus on selling tickets. Leach proved he can sell tickets as head man at Texas Tech from 2000-09, regularly filling Jones SBC Stadium by fielding Red Raider teams that led the NCAA in passing yards four years in a row.

It's obvious that Vandy can't compete in the rugged SEC by playing conventional football. It's equally obvious that the Dores' best chance to win is by doing things differently, not doing them better. The service academies have applied this principle for years by playing option football. The option is so rare these days that it is difficult for opponents to defend. Unfortunately, it's also difficult for fans to watch. That's why a pass-oriented attack such as Leach's would be a perfect fit in Nashville.

Vanderbilt was on the right track with its earnest but ill-fated pursuit of Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. Although he had a Heisman Trophy-winning Cameron Newton at quarterback this fall, Malzahn also produced high-scoring attacks in his previous stint at Tulsa.

Another master of schematic football is Leach, currently serving as a college analyst for CBS after posting an impressive 84-43 record at Texas Tech. Leach would be coaching a major-college program at present except that his reputation took a major hit in '09 when he was fired after allegedly ordering a player to spend hours in a dark shed.

Leach won big in Lubbock by turning nondescript high schoolers into system quarterbacks who put up eye-popping passing stats and by turning a walk-on receiver (Michael Crabtree) into a first-round NFL Draft pick. Leach should feel right at home at Vanderbilt, which brings in an abundance of nondescript high schoolers and walk-ons each fall.

Whether he could win 60 percent of his games at Vandy is debatable but Leach has proved conclusively that he can put up points. He hung 70 on Nebraska in 2004, the most surrendered in that program's storied history. He hung 70 on TCU the same season. Those 140 points were just four fewer than Vandy scored in its first 11 games of 2010.

In addition to putting fans in the seats, Leach's explosive offenses KEEP fans in the seats because of their comeback capabilities. His 2006 Texas Tech team rallied from a 38-7 third-quarter deficit to post a 44-41 overtime defeat of Minnesota in the Insight Bowl. And his 2008 Red Raiders, down 28-14 with 3:39 left in the Gator Bowl, roared back to win 31-28 in regulation.

Another reason Vandy should consider hiring Leach is the fact he is no stranger to the SEC. As Kentucky coach Hal Mumme's offensive coordinator in 1997 and 1998, he fine-tuned the "Air Raid" attack that helped the Big Blue go 7-5 in '98 and helped quarterback Tim Couch go No. 1 in the '99 NFL Draft.

Obviously, hiring Mike Leach would be a bold move, and Vanderbilt is not known for making bold moves. After all, he's a controversial figure who almost certainly would leave Nashville after two or three years on the job.

Those would be two or three memorable years, though. The Commodores might not win a lot of games but their offense would sell a lot of tickets.


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