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Football meets the classroom: Yogi Roth shares what he learned from watching Mike Leach teach Washington State students

Yogi Roth is a Pac-12 Networks football analyst and reporter who most recently traveled to Pullman for an “Our Stories” feature on Washington State head coach Mike Leach’s Insurgent Warfare and Football Strategy course on campus. Read what Roth had to say about the experience and then watch the debut of “Our Stories” on Sunday, May 5 at 5:15 p.m. PT/ 6:15 p.m. MT on Pac-12 Network.

Every coach is thought of as a teacher. Mike Leach is no different.

Yet what makes him so unique is that the Washington State coach is known for teaching much more than his Air Raid offense. He’s known for teaching reporters about marriage, football fans about Bigfoot and avid readers about one of his favorite subjects—pirates—in press conferences, articles, and ad-hoc interviews. Thus, to watch Coach Leach teach in an organized classroom setting for the first time in Pullman was magical.

The beauty of my time in Pullman, and in the feature that Annie Gottlieb produced, was that we got to understand and share the origin story for the type of learner Mike Leach is and where it all began. We learned that while his life began in the community of Cody, Wyoming, his love for curiosity began in a library. That desire to learn and teach based on his knowledge jump-started a coaching career that began at 15 years old for Leach as the coach of a baseball team.

During class and our subsequent interview, I was able to understand the insatiable curiosity that his parents grew and thankfully, allowed to flourish.

The title of the class is brilliant, ‘Leadership Lessons in Insurgent Warfare and Football Strategy.’ Coach Leach would be the first to tell you that he would never compare football to war, but what I learned from him and his co-professor, Senator Michael Baumgartner, was that insurgent warfare and the Air Raid offense mirror one another philosophically: Attack an opponent's strength and make it their weakness.

Listening to Coach, or Professor Leach, teach in Pullman will remain one of my greatest experiences as a storyteller. Like any feature, we are always amazed by the unexpected. Listening to the students in the classroom asking questions was that unexpected moment for me. Their preparation, ability to listen with an open mind and openness to be impacted by someone they admire on Saturdays inside Martin Stadium was a true joy. I think he enjoyed that too, as he seemed to gain a lot from their questions and the discussions over the course of the class.

Maybe that is the red thread in this piece—that Mike Leach is really enjoying every element of being a head coach at Washington State. And no one could blame him, especially the students.

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