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Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach dies at 61

The Bulldogs are set to face the Illini in the ReliaQuest Bowl.

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Tragic news out of Starkville.

Mississippi State head football coach Mike Leach died Monday night, one day after being hospitalized following a heart attack. Leach was 61 years old.

Leach was finishing his third season with the Bulldogs after stints at Texas Tech and Washington State.

Illinois is set to face Mississippi State in the ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa on Jan. 2.

According to the Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, Leach had a massive heart attack on Sunday in Starkville and was transferred to University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

ESPN reported Sunday night that Leach was at Saturday’s bowl practice before suffering his health issue on Sunday. ESPN also reported that he struggled with pneumonia during the season but had recently been feeling better. A cause of death has not yet been announced.

On Sunday, Mississippi State defensive coordinator Zach Arnett was named acting head coach.

It’s not clear yet what this means for the ReliaQuest Bowl and if the Bulldogs still plan on taking part in the contest against the Illini.

Last week at a bowl media availability, Illinois head coach Bret Bielema touched on his special connection to Coach Leach.

“Mike and I go way back,” Bielema told WCBI-TV. “Just a great guy. A good coach, a good person.”

Our prayers are with Coach Leach, his family, the MSU program, and the college football world.

This is a breaking story that will be updated as we learn more.