Mississippi State’s Mark Keenum discusses Mike Leach, MSU moving forward on SuperTalk radio

STARKVILLE — One of the lasting images of how Mike Leach will be remembered for his time at Mississippi State football comes alongside university president Mark Keenum.

After a 24-22 win against Ole Miss last month – Leach’s first Egg Bowl win in three seasons – Keenum joined the team in a cigar smoke-filled locker room to celebrate. Leach noted that Keenum loved beating Ole Miss more than anyone, therefore he awarded Keenum a game ball.

It was the pinnacle of Leach’s tenure at MSU. Keenum stood in the crowded locker room with the game ball in one hand and the Golden Egg in the other.

That turned out the be the final celebratory locker room for Leach, who died Monday night after a complication from a heart condition.

“He knew from day one how important that game was to our Mississippi State family and for him to, if you will, end his career in that game,” Keenum said in an interview with SuperTalk Mississippi on Tuesday. “To share that moment with him will be a lasting memory I have for the rest of my life.”.

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Keenum, like many around Mississippi State, has watched as social media has been flooded with support and prayers for Leach and his family since his hospitalization Sunday. It has served as a reminder for Keenum of all the success Leach had across the country and the friends he made in and out of football.

Keenum reaffirmed previous reports that Mississippi State intends on playing in the ReliaQuest Bowl on Jan. 2 against Illinois.

He admits Mississippi State’s players and coaches are heartbroken, but there is also a sense of motivation through the program.

“They want to play this game for coach Leach,” Keenum said.

That extends to Mississippi State’s Famous Maroon Band, Keenum added. Leach frequented the band’s practices during the summer. As a result, the band hopes to pay tribute to Leach soon, per Keenum.

MSU will take the field in Tampa, Florida, with defensive coordinator Zach Arnett serving as interim head coach. This comes as Bracky Brett serves as interim athletics director following John Cohen’s departure for Auburn.

Keenum expressed confidence in Arnett. However, he did not provide a timeline for how Mississippi State will move forward in filling the open roles.

“All of this is a complicated situation, no doubt,” Keenum said. “It doesn’t just rest on my shoulders. I’m blessed that we’ve got a lot of Mississippi State people that I turn to.”.

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Stefan Krajisnik is the Mississippi State beat writer for the Clarion Ledger. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @skrajisnik3.

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