Untold stories of football's Air Raid revolution

ByDave Wilson ESPN logo
Thursday, October 5, 2023

Long before the world knew Mike Leach or Dana Holgorsen or any of the other oddballs, eccentrics and revolutionaries of the Air Raid fraternity, Hal Mumme was a high school coach in Copperas Cove, Texas, with a problem.

It was 1986, the NBA and a young superstar had captured the attention of the school's best athletes. Even Mumme's own son came home from school one day and announced he wanted to be Michael Jordan.

This was Texas, and most coaches still romanticized the notion that football had to be torture for it to be worthwhile. There was a machismo to the running game, ramming head-on into each other and surviving battles of attrition, with defenses built around big, physical players meant to win those battles.

"My generation's football coaches fought World War II," Mumme said, "and they were pretty damn determined to make us relive it every day in practice."

So Mumme, who had already gone from being the nation's youngest coordinator at UTEP at 27, was now 31, looking to reboot his career after the Miners' whole staff had been fired, and he had a wild idea. What if he made football fun? What if he actually used the entire field?

And so the beginnings of the Air Raid were born, 67 miles from Austin, where just 10 years before, Texas coach Darrell Royal was running the wishbone and repeating his maxim: "Three things can happen to you whenever you throw the football, and two of 'em are bad." But Mumme, who idolized Royal, realized that the same thing that made the wishbone work, spreading the ball in space to skilled athletes, might work even better as a passing offense. So he went all-in.

A decade later, Mumme burst onto the national scene at Kentucky, walking around on SEC fields, eating hot dogs, wearing flip-flops and listening to Jimmy Buffett before becoming the only UK coach in the past 100 years to beat Alabama. His creation made 5-9 slot receivers superstars and walk-on quarterbacks Heisman winners. Mumme made it possible for Mike Leach, a lawyer from Pepperdine, to become a college football icon, for Lincoln Riley, a Texas Tech walk-on himself from tiny Muleshoe, Texas, to lead two of the most storied programs in history. He made football interesting for unpedigreed coaches who loved the sport, but who would rather write books about Geronimo than sleep in their offices or run the damn ball.

"The Air Raid is not an offense," TCU coach Sonny Dykes said. "The Air Raid is a way of life."

"It's a mentality," Riley said, "more than a collection of plays."

These mavericks changed the course of football history and rewrote record books, paving the way forPatrick Mahomesto win two Super Bowls while forcing Bill Belichick and Nick Saban to give into wide-open passing attacks. How they did it was never boring.

Last year, Dykes, a former Mumme assistant at Kentucky, made a historic run to the national title game after a 5-7 season. This year Deion Sanders, who used to pick Mumme's brain and called Leach for offensive staff recommendations, is using the same wide-open principles at Colorado during its program jump-start, turning his own son,Shedeur, into a Heisman candidate at QB.

With the sport still mourning Leach, the most famous and revered coach in the extended Air Raid family, following his death in December, we set out to find tales from the rise of the game-changing offense that illustrate the methods behind their collective madness.

The test pilot

For every Tim Couch orKyler MurrayorCaleb Williams, the bluest of blue-chip prospects, there are dozens of record-setting Air Raid quarterbacks who were unwanted by anyone else, then ran up the gaudiest of numbers.

Dustin Dewald blazed the trail in Copperas Cove. He was one of those players who got disillusioned with the drudgery of football in the 1980s, so he quit to join the golf team after watching his older brother get pummeled over and over as their QB.

"We got our heads kicked in trying to run the ball down the throats of bigger, more powerful teams, lining up in the Power I with an offensive line that averaged 195 pounds," Dewald said. "It was just ridiculous. Hal came in and said, 'All that's going to change.' It did. I think it was the first time in 10 years we didn't have a losing season in Cove."

Between 1978 and 1985, Cove went 10-69, including two 0-10 seasons. In Mumme's first year in 1986, the Bulldogs went 5-5. They were still outmanned, but Mumme, who began by using the run and shoot, gave them a shot in every game. Then against district rival Georgetown, the opposing coach, Art Briles, blitzed Mumme relentlessly, making it difficult for more complex plays to develop.

"I decided I was never going to let that happen to me again," Mumme said, reducing his offense to a collection of short passes and horizontal crossing routes.

Dewald threw the ball more than all but a handful of schools in Texas that year. There had been only two scholarship players in the previous 10 years at Cove, but he signed with Stephen F. Austin. Then, he went through the same cycle, quitting due to boredom and joining the golf team at Tarleton State. There weren't any college teams he knew of where he could replicate his experience. Until he went home to Cove to visit.

He stopped by the football offices to congratulate Mumme on his new job he'd just landed at a small college, Iowa Wesleyan. By the time he left, Mumme had once again recruited him to play quarterback for a team that was similar to Sanders' Colorado experiment: IWU was coming off an 0-10 season and had just two players returning.

"We tried to have a team meeting after I got introduced at the press conference and they told me there were going to be 40 guys," Mumme said. "I walk in, there's two, and the three that I brought with me. I just gave 'em the same speech I was going to give 'em anyway about working hard in the offseason, and we're going to win games. One kid just got up and walked out. I guess he decided, 'This is bulls---, I'm not doing this.' So we had four."

Leach was one of only two applicants for Mumme's offensive coordinator job, and they quickly realized they were kindred spirits. It was a leap of faith: The high school coach took a $20,000 pay cut to try to prove himself in college again. The lawyer who could've made $200,000 a year instead was making $12,000, and the golfer took on student-loan debt to go to school in Iowa -- where none of them had ever been.

They went 7-4 the next year, then, by 1991, started tinkering and added the up-tempo element where they never huddled and ran plays at a frenetic pace. Opposing teams had never seen anything like it and had no idea how to stop it. In Dewald's accidental career, he threw for 12,045 yards, 115 TDs and set 25 NAIA records. He threw for 4,418 yards and 45 TDs in 1991, including one game where he set national records with 86 attempts and 61 completions. Leach sent out news releases to national media, coining the name "Air Raid" in the process and building the mystique.

While it might have appeared the gaudy numbers were because of an intricate playbook, it was actually the opposite. There was no playbook at all. The philosophy was making things as barebones as possible.

Don't practice plays you won't call in a game. Don't call plays in a game you don't practice. Don't throw to a covered receiver and don't pass up an open one.

The plays came from LaVell Edwards at BYU, with Mumme saying he's watched every offensive snap of Edwards' career. He picked his favorites -- four passing and two rushing -- that seemed to always work. His practice drills, the real backbone of the Air Raid, according to the coaches, were all about details of that limited set, and were all based on Bill Walsh's 49ers practices.

So he made every practice consistent and repetitive and drilled until they were mind-numbingly boring. Do it until you can't screw it up, and let muscle memory win. And if it works, keep doing it. Mumme said he once called the same play 52 times in a game for Dewald.

Decades after helping launch the revolution, Dewald has watched teammates like Bill Bedenbaugh, an Iowa Wesleyan offensive linemen who's now considered one of the best O-line coaches in the country at Oklahoma, along with Holgorsen, his old IWU wide receiver who's become another of the sport's most idiosyncratic coaches, and he finds it amusing that he still understands almost everything they do.

"For years, I would go visit [Leach or Mumme] every year for at least one home game and spend days with them at practice and on the sidelines of games," Dewald said. "The last time I visited Mike at Washington State, I looked at the script for the game and it was crazy. I actually knew what to do on 90 percent of it -- and it was almost 30 years after I stopped playing. Just to see what they've all accomplished has been mind-blowing for me, how much it's changed the game and how successful they've all been has been reallycool to watch."

It won't work, until it did

Chris Hatcher is convinced Mumme isn't the inventor of the Air Raid. He claims the title.

Hatcher signed at Valdosta State to play for Mike Cavan, a former Georgia assistant who had coached under Vince Dooley and was Herschel Walker's lead recruiter. They were an I-formation team with a few passing concepts.

Mumme arrived at Valdosta after Cavan left for another job and, armed with talent he'd never had before, he initially made the same mistake he criticized other coaches for: He overcomplicated things.

"I don't care what anybody says, I'm the guy that invented the Air Raid," Hatcher said. "I was not smart enough to comprehend all this stuff Hal wanted to do. So we had to dummy it way down for me. And then that's when the Air Raid took off. That is the truth."

Hatcher learned to appreciate the beauty of perfecting and running an offense so simple that he had a little extra time on his hands, enough to visit a frat party the night before homecoming and leave with a parting gift.

"You didn't have to be in the film room all night because it didn't matter what the defense was doing," Hatcher said. "We were so good at it that you had time to go out and steal a cannon in the evening. It was a legit Civil War cannon, now, too. Let's not act like it was a little peashooter."

Hatcher, who's now the head coach at Samford, threw for 11,363 yards and 121 touchdowns and set 29 school records. During his senior year in 1994, he led the Blazers to their first postseason berth, advancing to the quarterfinals, and when it was all said and done set 29 VSU passing and total offense records. He won the 1994 Harlon Hill Award, often called the D-II Heisman, as the Blazers went 40-17-1 in his career.

This captured the attention of Kentucky athletic director C.M. Newton, who wanted to match the basketball program's pace. He handpicked Mumme, which raised eyebrows among purists who believed such a gimmick offense wouldn't work in the big, bad SEC. But Kentucky already had a homegrown star quarterback in Tim Couch, albeit one who was last seen losing 65-0 in his first start to Florida -- and defensive coordinator Bob Stoops -- and attempted just 84 passes over seven games.

First, Mumme enlisted Hatcher, now a graduate assistant, to convince Couch not to transfer. (They went to Hooters and talked it out.) He stuck around, working with Hatcher, who was in charge of getting Mumme's play scripts prepared for Couch's wristband. Mumme would say Play 1 or Play 2, and Couch would call what's on the wristband. Quarterbacks often would check into different plays freely, but in one game, Couch took it to an extreme.

"We get about three or four first downs and Couch ain't run a play Mumme's called yet," Hatcher said. "We go down and score, and the whole time Mumme is on the headsets using a few choice words to me."

Mumme accused Hatcher, who often changed the play himself when playing for Mumme, of purposely telling Couch not to run Mumme's calls.

"I can't believe you'd do this to me," Mumme said, according to Hatcher. "Then it finally hit me. Couch was using the wristband from the week before, and didn't change it out. Every play was wrong, and we went down and scored anyway. My point is, when you rep the plays so much, we feel like it doesn't matter. I can pick me a handful of plays that should work against just about anything you'll see. I like to say we're a well-coached backyard football team."

Couch's mastery paid off in 1997 when he threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Craig Yeast in overtime to lead Kentucky to a win over Alabama 40-34. It was Kentucky's first win over Alabama in 75 years -- something the Wildcats haven't done since. It came just a year after Couch threw for 13 yards (UK had 67 total yards) in an entire game against Stoops' Florida defense under Steve Spurrier. Couch threw for 348 and 406 yards in the next two meetings. While the Gators ended up pulling away and winning both games handily, it was frustrating for Stoops, and their mentality impressed him.

"I liked how [Leach] and Hal Mumme were over there standing together," Stoops said. "I took note of the casual nature of the two of them. But they were the most difficult to deal with."

A little extra mustard

Nothing Mumme did was by accident. He doesn't dispute any contentions that he and Leach were arrogant.

"There's no question," Mumme said. "We always thought we were smarter than everybody else. We always thought we had better ideas than everybody else. And we pretty much did. That's why everybody's trying to do it now."

Mumme could be combative with reporters, and Leach could be aloof. And they weren't worried about too many other opinions.

"We played Jimmy Buffett during warmups," said West Virginia coach Neal Brown, who played wide receiver at Kentucky under Mumme. "I don't know if that gets it going for you."

"It got me and Mike going," Mumme said, laughing. "We weren't worried about anybody else."

They loved causing a stir or annoying other fans, like when Leach mocked Texas A&M's Corps of Cadets as head coach at rival Texas Tech.

"How come they get to pretend they are soldiers?" Leach said. "The thing is, they aren't actually in the military. I ought to have Mike's Pirate School. The freshmen, all they get is the bandanna. When you're a senior, you get the sword and skull and crossbones. For homework, we'll work pirate maneuvers and stuff like that."

The Aggies were not amused.

Then again, Leach and Mumme were, which was the point. Jeff Allen can testify.

Before Allen became the only staff member who has been with Nick Saban for his entire Alabama tenure, a trusted confidante and sports medicine guru, he was an assistant trainer at Kentucky -- but most importantly, he was Mumme's hot dog guy.

UK was about to play at LSU in Death Valley, then coached by embattled coach Gerry DiNardo. Mumme marched into the training room on Wednesday with a request that befuddled Allen.

"Hey, during pregame, when I'm talking to DiNardo, I want you to bring me a hot dog," Mumme said.

Allen didn't understand. He'd been with him for more than five years at this point, and this was a new one.

"Finally, over the next day or two, I said, 'Why do you want a hot dog while you're on the field talking to their head coach?" Allen said, "He said, 'Because they're going to be so uptight to begin with. I want to show 'em how carefree and how relaxed I am, and it's going to make them even more nervous.'"

Mumme was very specific that he wanted mustard on it. He sent a student for the hot dog and was on the field during pregame when he saw Mumme, whom he hadn't talked to yet on the day of the game. He thought, "well here goes nothing," and headed over.

"I looked at him and said, 'Coach, here's your hot dog,' Allen said. "He looked at me and goes, 'Oh, thanks Jeff.' Then he said, 'Hey, hold on, hold on. Does it have mustard on it?'" Allen assured him it did, all the while playing it straight.

"I can still see DiNardo's face," Allen said. "He was like, 'What in the world is happening here?' And I swear to you, Hal just stood there talking and eating that hot dog. I walked off and I turned around and I wanted to see it again. And there they are talking and Hal is just chomping on a hot dog right there on the 50-yard line of Tiger Stadium. And our players were seeing it. They were laughing. They were dying during warmups watching it."

The Wildcats were 0-24 on the road against ranked teams since 1977. They were 9-point underdogs. They played fast and loose and kicked a walk-off field goal to win at the buzzer 39-36, sealing one of the biggest wins in school history. It led Kentucky to a bid in the OutbackBowl, the first New Year's Day bowl for the Wildcats since 1952.

"I'm not saying we won that game because of the hot dog," Allen said. "But I don't think it hurt."

The Air Raid goes mainstream

On Dec. 1, 1998, Oklahoma hired Stoops. The Sooners hadn't had a winning season in six years and were coming off a 12-22 stretch in three years under John Blake. Stoops, then 38, was a hot commodity as a defensive coordinator. Hiring someone to run his offense was his first big decision.

"My initial talks were with Turner Gill, who was at Nebraska at the time," Stoops said. "That didn't really work out. And then I got to thinking. ... I didn't know [Leach], but the more I thought about it, the more I referred back to how challenging it was to handle Kentucky. If they can be that good at Kentucky, why couldn't we be as good or better at Oklahoma? So I went with it."

It was a bold move. Leach had never been a playcaller, and let's face it, he was pretty weird.

"I thought Mike was really interesting," Stoops said. "Mike had a little different way of doing things. But let me tell you something: He was a hell of a leader. He was demanding, as aloof as he might be. He wanted things done a certain way and they damn sure better be done that way or you were going to hear it. He might look laid back, he was demanding, very demanding."

That was a learning curve for the rest of the staff, who couldn't figure out if this was all an act, or if Leach was for real.

"It was completely different from anything that any of us had seen in the offensive meeting room," former Oklahoma assistant and Kansas head coach Mark Mangino said. "It did take time to get used to."

So did Leach's personality. The staff was all staying at a hotel in Norman, and somehow Mangino's room became the center of the action.

"I couldn't get him out of my room when I was living in the Residence Inn," Mangino said. "Every night, somebody delivered a couple cases of beer, a box of cigars, and we sat around and called recruits till about 11:30."

By midnight, everyone was gone. Except Leach.

"Mike used to like to watch those simulcasts of Howard Stern. And those things would run till 4 in the morning. I'm in my bed trying to sleep. And here's Leach at 3 in the morning, he's laughing at Howard Stern, he's drinking a beer and he's having a good time."

Stoops, too, had a learning curve.

"I learned after the first few weeks late at night not to stop in and check in on Mike," Stoops said. "One night, it's 11 or something, I'm ready to go home, and he starts telling me a story about Geronimo. After about 20 minutes, I said, 'Mike, I'm going home. I'm the head coach, I get to go when I want.'"

Mangino, meanwhile, couldn't shake him at night, and he couldn't get through to him by day. In a staff meeting, Mangino suggested a running play. Leach couldn't have been less interested. Mangino suggested trying it at practice, and Leach blew him off again. Mangino said maybe he'll practice it anyway.

"Mike said, you could put it in all you want, you could run it during every play of inside drill, but I'm never going to call it in a game," and Mangino and Leach nearly came to blows, Stoops said, laughing.

An irritated Stoops called them into his office and made them hash it out.Stoops made it clear that he had given Leach full control, and they'd do it his way. Leach and Mangino became good friends.

The Big 12 was never the same. The new-look Sooners went 7-5 and made their first bowl game in five years. Texas Tech hired Leach, and Mangino took over, finally getting to put in a couple of wrinkles of his own.

Mangino had a season's worth of reps in place, and he said he ran about 80% of Leach's offense. "And it worked," he said. The Sooners won a national championship, going 13-0 behind Josh Heupel, a lightly recruited junior college quarterback Leach found at Snow College.

"They were the ones that invented it ... but we [Oklahoma, Leach, Texas Tech and the Big 12] were the ones to make it popular," Stoops said. "They weren't getting the national attention at Kentucky until we started it. And then, of course, we kept it and won the national championship."

Liftoff in Lubbock

Leach became a star at Texas Tech. He took down No. 1 Texas, guided the Red Raiders to a bowl game in all 10 of his seasons and finished as the program's all-time winningest coach at 84-43.

Dykes was part of Leach's first staff that replaced his dad, Spike Dykes, who had retired.

"We were doing all this stuff that was really analytics, but they didn't know it was," Dykes said. "We were going for it all the time on fourth down or going for it in our own territory. My dad would be like, 'What the hell are you doing?' I'm like, 'It gives us a chance to beat Texas. Instead of losing by 14, we might lose by 50. But we also might win?'"

It became one of the most influential eras in college football. In Mumme's days in Kentucky, Urban Meyer and Sean Payton were among the earliest coaches to visit to try to learn what the Air Raid is all about. In Lubbock, Leach made sure his doors were wide open, and there were visitors everywhere.

Leach made sure his coaches knew that he wanted them to teach visitors anything they wanted to know.

There was only one issue: "They didn't believe us," said Lincoln Riley, who was a student assistant for Leach, because the entire offense was so simple.

"I've never been to a place where you had more coaches around constantly," Riley said. "Mike was so open to people coming in. You think just Texas high school coaches? No. I'm talking professional coaches, college coaches from all around the country, high school coaches from all around the country, every single year. There's a group from Japan that came, groups from England that came over, I mean, you name it, we had 'em."

Dykes and Holgorsen, who were receivers coaches and later co-offensive coordinators, would handle a lot of high school coaches on their visits. Dykes said he can remember walking out to the parking lot one day and overhearing the coaches leaving convinced the offense couldn't be that simple, that Leach & Co. were holding things back.

"'Those sumb------ wouldn't tell us anything,'" Dykes recalled them saying. "And we told them everything."

Muleshoe High's David Wood coached Riley and his brother Garrett Riley, now the offensive coordinator at Clemson, and watched as they passed over small-school offers to head to Lubbock to learn from Leach. Over time, he said, you could see the Tech influence take hold and spread throughout high school football, with Muleshoe being one of the early adopters, because Lincoln returned to help him install it while he was still a walk-on quarterback at Tech.

"We were a run offense, but once we realized how simple it was, we didn't think it was going to be that hard to switch," Wood said. "We used to run maybe 30 plays in practice because you analyze every play and tell every player what they did wrong and then you'd run the play again and make sure everyone did it right. The way Leach did it, when we watched it, you got to coach on the run. So we were able to get like 120 plays a practice instead of 30 plays a practice."

Wood said when Riley set out for Lubbock in 2002, there were maybe two schools in the Texas Panhandle that were running a spread offense.

"I would say probably 70 percent of the teams we played when I retired [in 2017] were running it," he said. "Maybe 80."

The Big 12 became known for its shootouts, and Leach's earliest quarterback rooms were filled with future stars and coaches, all of whom waited their turn, many of them just to start for one season. Kliff Kingsbury, who had originally signed with Spike Dykes, threw for more than 5,000 yards as a senior in 2002 and set seven NCAA records in his three years as a starter at Tech. His backup, B.J. Symons, set the NCAA passing record with 5,833 yards in 2003, and Symons' backups, Sonny Cumbie and Cody Hodges, each passed for more than 4,000 yards in a season as starters.

They did it all because Leach repeated the same things he and Mumme had always preached, particularly in the film room.

"The worst coaching point he would ever give us, and the one that we all hated, was: 'This guy was open. This guy was open. This guy was open. This guy wasn't open. And he's the one guy you threw it to!" said Cumbie, now the head coach at Louisiana Tech, imitating Leach's monotone cadence. "I don't care if it's two-high [safety coverage], one-high. Is it man? Is it zone? Is this guy open? Yes. Throw it to him."

Something's in the air tonight

Mumme's Kentucky era ended in an NCAA investigation, with Mumme resigning in 2001 amid findings that an assistant coach was sending money orders to players in Memphis. Mumme was cited for a "failure to monitor," but was not punished by the NCAA.

Since then, he'll sign up to coach anything, anytime, anywhere, including stops at New Mexico State, reviving football after 20 years at Southeastern Louisiana or stops at Division III schools Belhaven in Mississippi and McMurry in Texas.

"I'm the Johnny Appleseed of football," Mumme said. "I always thought that was a great story. It's not that I set out to do that -- I never set out to get kicked out of Kentucky -- but when you look back on it, providence had a plan. We spread it a whole lot of places it wouldn't have been otherwise."

And despite his offense being almost the norm now, rather than catching teams by surprise, it still works as it was intended: As a sort of money ball, beating teams that you have no business beating.

At McMurry, he took over a program that had three winless seasons in the previous decade, including an 0-10 mark the year before he arrived. Three years later, they were 9-3 and 7-1 in the conference.

Out of the spotlight, Mumme still made history. And he did it in the most Mumme way possible.

McMurry opened the 2011 season with an 82-6 loss to Stephen F. Austin, who was ranked in the FCS at the time. After getting down early, Mumme would just keep going for it on fourth down over and over. He was down 35-0 at halftime, and it only got worse from there. But he wouldn't stop.

"Losing by 50 was the same as losing by 1," Dykes said. "Hal never cared."

The next week, Mumme gave the team four days off. He showed them five plays from the first half where it easily could've been 35-28 instead of 35-0. They were set to face UTSA the next week, a D-I team coached by Larry Coker, who'd won a national championship at Miami. Mumme's quarterback, Jake Mullin, like Dewald, wasn't on the team when he arrived. He played baseball, but was a quarterback on the intramural team when Mumme found him.

"They said they created this offense for teams without much talent, which was great for us," Mullin said, who, like Dewald, ended up throwing for more than 12,000 yards in his career. "Whenever [Mumme] got there, there was not much there. I mean, I remember I was bigger than my left guard."

Mumme took the team to the Menger Hotel in San Antonio, his favorite place, where Teddy Roosevelt recruited Texans at the bar to serve in his Rough Riders. He took the team on a tour of the Alamo the night before the game. The next day, McMurry upset UTSA 24-21 in front of 31,000 fans in the Alamodome, one of the only upsets of a D-I team by a D-III team in history, and Mullin threw for 372 yards.

"The Menger's filled with ghosts, we did have a ghost sighting in there," Mumme said. "Between the Menger ghosts and the Alamo ghosts, they probably helped us out."

Mumme's fascination with history earned him an invitation from then-McMurry professor Don Frazier to a party for his new book, "The Alamo and Beyond." Also invited? One of the world's largest collectors of Alamo memorabilia in the world: Phil Collins. Yes, that Phil Collins.

Frazier didn't want Collins to be constantly accosted at the event, so he invited Mumme because he said half the table of Texans would rather talk to Mumme about the Air Raid and Leach than to a British rock star. Even about the Alamo.

Mumme got his copy autographed by Collins. The inscription reads:

"To coach... Something's in the air tonight. Cheers. Phil Collins."

The next chapter

Mumme, 71, keeps spreading the gospel. He is part of the operations group of a new spring league called the International Football Alliance with teams in Mexico and Texas, and will coach one of the teams. His son, Matt, who never became Michael Jordan, instead stuck with the family business and is now the assistant head coach at Colorado State.

Mumme has seen his little creation change the sport, including watching some of the most storied running teams of his lifetime at USC and Oklahoma be completely transformed. Now, it's finally broken through to the final frontier: the Big Ten, where Wisconsin, under Leach acolyte Phil Longo, is following the same formula as Oklahoma: Join forces with a defensive head coach (Luke Fickell) and flip the offense. Harrell, the former Leach quarterback, is the new offensive coordinator at Purdue as well.

"A couple of days before Mike passed, we talked and he was just ultra excited that we're bringing the Air Raid to the Big Ten," Longo said. "It's the most excited I've ever heard him. So it meant something to me that he was happy that we were making moves, and he's the only one who didn't seem shocked by it."

Mason Miller, Leach's offensive line coach at Mississippi State who is now the offensive coordinator at Tarleton State, has worked for either Mumme or Leach basically since 1994 when he played running back at Valdosta State. He said the Air Raid family has become so big that it has its share of "little sibling rivalries," but that when they all get together, "we're like magnets to each other."

Leach's loss has been profound on the family. But out of that loss, there's a new beginning.

Leach's son Cody spent two years as a volunteer coach at BYU under Kalani Sitake, and spent his dad's final year as a graduate assistant at Mississippi State. Now, he's an assistant special teams coach for the Bulldogs, who has completed his Air Raid certification -- a service Mumme offers to keep spreading the word to coaches anywhere -- and is studying his dad's old game tapes stored in Gatorade coolers in his garage.

"I wish I could have gotten more time with him," Cody, 27, said. "But Dad being so famous, being on TV, the occasional 'Friday Night Lights' cameo and other random stuff in media, I can always find him. Not everyone has that kind of opportunity where your parent is so well-documented that you can just find them and pull them up anytime."

There's another Mumme-Leach pairing in the works, with Cody hoping to follow his father's path.

"He knew so many other amazing coaches and all the guys he knows, I've known for a long time too," Cody said. "So I have plenty of people to be able to talk to. His was the first generation, and it's kind of taking off into other branches. For me, it's a legacy."

Stoops says he can't help but look around and see how profound their impact was.

"It goes back to Mike," he said. "And Hal's not talked enough about. He and Mike were joined at the hip. Between the two of them, I don't know that anyone's had a stronger influence on coaches. It goes on and on. The influence is huge. These tentacles from them go all over the place. They branch out from the two of them everywhere."

Jake Trotter and Chris Low contributed to this story.