STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State will play in its Jan. 2 ReliaQuest Bowl game against Illinois, Bulldogs interim athletic director Bracky Brett told ESPN on Tuesday.
Mississippi State coach Mike Leach died Monday night after complications related to a heart condition. He was 61.
“The players are 100% behind playing this bowl game and doing what Coach Leach would expect them to do,” Brett said. “We all know that’s what Coach Leach would want, and it’s what we should do.”
Mississippi State players will return to campus Thursday and lift weights that day. The next full bowl practice is Friday, Brett said.
Defensive coordinator Zach Arnett was placed in charge of the program after Leach was taken to the hospital Sunday. Arnett will coach the Bulldogs in the bowl game.
“Coach Arnett has made it clear that we’re going to finish what we started and honor Coach Leach,” Brett said.
Brett took over the interim AD duties after John Cohen left to take the Auburn AD job on Oct. 31. The ReliaQuest Bowl is played in Tampa at Raymond James Stadium, home to the NFL’s Buccaneers.
“It’s only fitting that we play this game and honor Coach Leach in a stadium that has a pirate ship,” Brett said.
Leach, nicknamed the Pirate, was a big fan of pirates and had a life-size statue of a talking pirate in his office.
Mississippi St. to play bowl game