Mississippi State is already "disappointed" with head coach Mike Leach's off-field behavior before he has coached a single football game for the program.
On April 2, Tyler Horka of the Mississippi Clarion Ledger reported Leach tweeted a picture of an elderly woman with knitting needles on Wednesday with the message, "After 2 weeks of quarantine with her husband, Gertrude decided to knit him a scarf."
However, the woman was holding a noose with a tied hangman's knot instead of a scarf in the since-deleted tweet.
Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen released a statement on the tweet Tuesday:
"No matter the context, for many Americans the image of a noose is never appropriate and that's particularly true in the South and in Mississippi. Mississippi State University was disappointed in the use of such an image in a tweet by Coach Mike Leach. He removed the tweet and issued a public apology. The university is confident that Coach Leach is moving quickly and sincerely past this unintended misstep and will provide the leadership for our student athletes and excitement for our football program that our fans deserve and that our students and alumni will be proud to support."
Leach offered his regrets for the tweet Thursday:
Mississippi State's announcement noted Leach will visit the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum when there are no longer restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic and also talk to student, alumni and community groups.
The image's offensiveness particularly resounded from a public figure in Mississippi considering the state had the highest number of lynchings from 1882-1968 with 581, per the NAACP.
Defensive tackle Fabien Lovett announced he is entering the transfer portal following Leach's tweet, and Lovett's father, Abdual, opened up about the decision, per Rashad Milligan of the Mississippi Clarion Ledger.
"I didn't feel comfortable with my son being down there with a guy like that from a leadership standpoint—that you can just throw anything out there," Abdual said. "I feel if he can do it, the kids are going to feel like they can do it."
Horka noted linebacker Erroll Thompson and defensive end Kobe Jones also publicly criticized Leach's tweet.
This is far from the first time the former Texas Tech and Washington State coach has found himself in the center of controversy, especially with social media. Horka noted Leach criticized Utah senator Mitt Romney with a series of tweets when he was the sole Republican to vote for the removal of President Donald Trump during his impeachment trial.
"As an American, does ANYONE, REALLY want Mitt Romney on their side?!" Leach asked.
Leach, a known Trump supporter, told reporters he is "yet to hear what he did wrong," when talking about the president's impeachment trial.
What's more, USA Today reported Washington State's vice president for marketing and communications Phil Weiler said Leach's decision to tweet out a fake and doctored video of former President Barack Obama cost the school future gifts that "would have totaled $1.6 million."
Leach also made headlines when he told reporters California should focus on homelessness because the state "has trouble keeping their streets clean right now" instead of worrying about a potential bill that would allow college athletes to profit off their image and likeness.