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TCU will honor Mike Leach with a pirate flag helmet sticker

According to coach Sonny Dykes, the Horned Frogs will pay tribute to Mike Leach when they take the field on Saturday for TCU’s semifinal matchup with Michigan at the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl.

All TCU players’ helmets will have a pirate flag sticker as part of that tribute.

“I think that’s going to be a big part of my feelings pregame tomorrow — just the impact Mike had on my life and really college football in general,” Dykes said Friday. “I’m sure there’ll be a little bit of shoutout to Coach Leach before I take the field, just what he meant to me personally in my life.

“I certainly wouldn’t be here without his guidance or mentorship and the huge impact he had on my life.”

Leach, who coached for 21 seasons, passed away on December 12 from a heart condition at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. He had just turned 61.

From 2000 to 2006, Dykes worked as an assistant for Leach at Texas Tech, first as the wide receivers coach and then as the co-offensive coordinator. The “Air Raid” strategy, which was developed by Leach and head coach Hal Mumme, had a significant impact on Dykes, who previously worked alongside Leach as an assistant at Kentucky.

“He was just an original guy that did things his way, outside-the-box thinker, and I just was really blessed and fortunate to have a chance to work with him,” Dykes said.

Garrett Riley, the offensive coordinator at TCU, was Leach’s quarterback at Texas Tech, where he earned the nickname “The Pirate.”

Both Dykes and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh were raised by their fathers, with Jack Harbaugh coaching at Western Kentucky and Western Michigan, respectively; Texas Tech’s long-time coach was Spike Dykes.

Jim Harbaugh mentioned that his father had reminisced fondly about attending coaches’ clinics and chatting with Spike Dykes.

“The real clinic was after the clinic,” Harbaugh said. “They’d go to the hotel bar, have a beer, and all of a sudden the paper and the napkins came flying. And they’re drawing plays and couldn’t wait to talk football and tell them everything that you know. We don’t do that. That’s something that has changed.”

Dykes made a joke about how, when he was a kid, he would come home at one in the morning from a high school football game and his dad would be drinking with rival coaches the night before a game against them, like Texas A&M’s R.C. Slocum.

“So in that spirit, I was going to invite Coach Harbaugh by the hotel tonight to see if we want to open up a bottle of bourbon and reminisce a little bit,” Dykes said as both coaches laughed. “I don’t know if he’ll take me up on it.”

Said Harbaugh: “That’s way past my bedtime.”

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