Mike Leach in wide-ranging Q&A

COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES work long, hard hours most of the year, so summer vacations with the family are sacred times for most coaches. Mike Leach, of course, is not like most coaches. That helps explain why the colorful new Washington State coach readily agreed to an exclusive phone interview with Cougfan.com on Friday while vacationing with his family in Key West, Fla.

Leach called Key West home during his two-year break from coaching. Soon he will return to Pullman and fret over this, that and the other thing on the football field.

First, however, Leach spent more than 90 minutes dodging lightning and chatting about everything from his favorite movies to quarterback Jeff Tuel's medical hardship status to his own decision to not play college football.

Here's the first of two parts of the Leach interview:

CF.C: You're one of a select few college football coaches who did not play the sport in college. Why?
Leach: BYU, football-wise, was a little over my head. Plus, I was going to go to law school. I figured I'd hustle through and go straight to law school (he holds a law degree from Pepperdine). If I had to do it over again, I might have taken my time. I went through (BYU) in eight semesters, but I had a great time.

CF.C: You were a wide receiver and outside linebacker in high school, but you missed part of your senior season with a broken ankle. Could you have played college football at some level?
Leach: I don't know if I could have or not … I wasn't a great player … I was always small growing up. When I got into college, I was 5-10 and weighed about 160 pounds. When I left college, I was just under 6 foot and weighed 185 pounds and I was faster, stronger and all the rest.

CF.C: How much rugby did you play at BYU?
Leach: Four years. I think every school should have a rugby team. I think a lot of times people misconstrue (the role of college sports). They say, "Football and basketball make all this money," which is true. Universities want to make money, so they should do what they can to make money for the institution.

People say, "These (other) sports don't make money." Well, that doesn't mean they should go by the wayside. They can fulfill people's lives; they can fulfill universities. They get them recognition and notoriety.

I minored in English, and the English Department doesn't make any money, OK? But every school should have English because it makes people better, it makes our country better, it educates people, it broadens their thinking.

CF.C: Who was your favorite athlete growing up?
Leach: Bart Starr (the Green Bay Packers' star quarterback). I had his poster above my bed.

CF.C: You're known for being a voracious reader. What's your favorite book?
Leach: It's easy to say the Bible. When you take God into things, he's kinda got an unfair advantage.

CF.C: Are you reading anything right now?
Leach: A book by a Washington State professor, of all things. A book on Davey Crockett ("The Real-Life Adventures of David Crockett") by Buddy Levy.

CF.C: What's your favorite movie?
Leach: I like all the (director Alfred) Hitchcock stuff. "Rio Bravo" is up there, with John Wayne, Dean Martin, Walter Brennan. Angie Dickinson's in it.

CF.C: How about your favorite sports movie?
Leach: It would have to be "Bull Durham." That first "Rocky" was really good. Baseball and boxing movies are the best sports movies to make because you can stop the action. Football movies are the toughest sports movies to make because you've got 22 guys in motion, they're wearing helmets … that one football movie, "Friday Night Lights," they did a tremendous job.

CF.C: What's the status of Jeff Tuel's appeal to the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility for medical hardship, since he played so little last year?
Leach: I'm waiting to hear on that myself. He certainly deserves it. If anybody deserves it, he does.

CF.C: If you could change one thing about college football, what would it be?
Leach: I'd extend the playoff system to 16 teams or more, but maintain the bowls. College football is more popular than ever. People say there's too many bowls. Well, that's crazy. If you don't like bowls, then don't watch 'em.

CF.C: If you could sit down for dinner or a drink with one person in history, who would it be?
Leach: Geronimo. You talk about a guy ridiculously competitive, ridiculously passionate. One of the ultimate overachievers.


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