Tennessee looks westward to Washington State's Mike Leach in coaching search

In this Oct. 21, 2017, file photo, Washington State coach Mike Leach watches from the sideline during the second half of the team's NCAA college football game against Colorado in Pullman, Wash. A person with direct knowledge of the meeting says Leach met with Tennessee athletic director John Currie to discuss the Volunteers' coaching vacancy. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither side intended to make the meeting public. The meeting was in Los Angeles earlier Thursday, Nov. 30, and Leach was scheduled to fly back to Pullman. (AP Photo/Young Kwak, File)

KNOXVILLE - Could a pirate could be the next captain of the Vol Navy?

Tennessee's turbulent coaching search took a westward shift on Thursday when Tennessee athletic director John Currie met with Washington State coach Mike Leach.

Associated Press sources confirmed the meeting, which took place in Los Angeles.

Leach, who is known for his affinity for pirates among his many quirks, is in his sixth season at Washington State. The Cougars are 38-37 in his tenure and 26-28 against Pac-12 opponents. Washington State rose to No. 8 in the country this year after a 6-0 start. The Cougars finished the regular season 9-3.

The 56-year-old Leach employs a pass-heavy "air raid" offense that - along with his penchant for comical interviews - has helped make Leach something of a college football celebrity.

He was 84-43 in 10 years at Texas Tech before he was fired amid controversy near the end of the 2009 season. Leach was accused of punishing a player with a concussion. The player's father told the Texas Tech chancellor that his son was locked in a closet for hours.

Those claims were denied by Leach, but the school fired him with cause and a legal battle ensued for Leach's wages for that year.

Just this summer, Leach told USA Today that "There hasn't been justice on this."

Texas Tech has not won nine or more games in any of the eight seasons since Leach was fired. Leach won nine or more games five of his 10 years there, highlighted by an 11-2 season in 2008.

Between his time at Texas Tech and Washington State, Leach worked at ESPN college football analyst.

Washington State only interviewed Leach when it hired him after the 2011 season. By comparison, Tennessee's 2017 coaching search has been a winding road that has included several other targets.

Dave Doeren elected to stay at North Carolina State instead of coming to Tennessee on Thursday.

Tennessee's interest in Doeren came after the Volunteers talks with Purdue's Jeff Brohm fell through on Wednesday. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy rejected Tennessee on Tuesday. Duke's David Cutcliffe also told Tennessee he was not interested, according to an ESPN report.

The wave of rejections has come after a Sunday fiasco in which Tennessee athletic director John Currie attempted to hire Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, a decision that was met with intense fan backlash.

Leach was the offensive coordinator at Kentucky in 1997 and 1998.

Vols head football coach search