By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP College Football Writer
Mississippi State coach Mike Leach was hospitalized in critical condition Monday, the day after what the university called “a personal health issue” at his home in Starkville forced him to be airlifted to a medical facility in Jackson.
Leach was admitted Sunday to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, about 125 miles (200 kilometers) from the Mississippi State campus.
UMMC spokesman Marc Rolph said Monday in a text message to AP that Leach was listed in critical condition. The 61-year-old Leach was initially treated at Oktibbeha County Hospital in Starkville, the university said.
“Mike’s family is with him and appreciates the overwhelming expressions of love and support for the coach, but also requests that their family’s privacy be respected at this time,” the school said Monday.
Leach is in his third season at Mississippi State, with a 19-17 record. He acknowledged have a bout with pneumonia late in the season that was causing a persistent cough, but it was unclear whether his recent illness was related to his hospitalization.
Messages of concern and support for Leach poured over social media from former players, and colleagues and rivals across college football.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Mike Leach, his wife Sharon, their family and the doctors treating him,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said in a statement. “Mike’s infectious personality and passion for the game have impacted the sport in so many positive ways during his career.”
Leach, known for his prolific Air Raid offenses, is 158-107 in 21 seasons as a head coach at Texas Tech, Washington State and Mississippi State.
Defensive coordinator Zach Arnett has been placed in charge of the football team by Mississippi State President Mark Keenum and interim athletic director Bracky Brett as it prepares for an appearance in the ReliaQuest Bowl against Illinois on Jan. 2 in Tampa, Florida.
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