Blog Entry

The end of Jim Leavitt at South Florida

Posted on: January 8, 2010 3:13 pm
Edited on: January 8, 2010 3:24 pm

There was something very Nixonian to the end of Jim Leavitt.

It wasn’t the act itself of the South Florida coach allegedly grabbing the throat of a player and hitting him. It was the denials and interference with an investigation that got Leavitt fired on Friday. There was a hint of Watergate cover-up to the whole thing.

It was an unfortunate end to a brilliant career at South Florida and a troubling continuation of a coaching trend. Leavitt has been the only coach the school has known. Thirteen years ago he bought the first footballs, worked out of a trailer for years, coaching the Bulls to the brink of a Big East title.

Now this, a sordid termination letter where athletic director Doug Woolard is very specific about Leavitt’s misdeeds.

He was fired with cause. The school said his conduct was “not compatible with USF’s educational mission and the health and welfare of USF student athletes.”

Health and welfare? Where is the coaching profession headed? This is the third such incident in slightly more than a month. Kansas’ Mark Mangino resigned under pressure after allegations surfaced of mistreatment of players. Texas Tech’s Mike Leach was fired after doing whatever he did to Adam James. Mangino and Leavitt coached together under Bill Snyder at Kansas State. All three coaching with or for Bob Stoops at some point.

Other than, there are few connections except the alleged mistreatment of athletes. Leach is aggressively fighting his firing, alleging that his former employers made “slanderous and libelous” statements about him.  The situation at Texas Tech quickly degenerated into a he said/he said argument as both sides argued over the semantics of “electrical closet” and “shed”.

At this point, Mangino looks the most sane. Allegations of his mistreatment of players went back at least eight years.  In the end, he settled on a buyout with the university. The whole affair was wrapped up in less than a month.

Maybe all three should take something from Woolard’s letter: “The disparity in authority and power between you as the head coach and the student athlete makes your conduct more serious.”

Maybe this will signal the end of the coach-as-bully syndrome. Maybe it’s just the beginning as more parents and players become empowered by recent events.

One player said that Leavitt “flat-out lied” when he denied going after walk on Joel Miller. Another player told an investigator that he “knew he has witnessed a crime.” The most troubling accusation is that Leavitt tried to intimidate walk-on Joel Miller by telling him “choose his words wisely” because the coach was “the most powerful man in the building.”

Of the three recent coaching situations, Friday’s might have been the weirdest yet.  At the time Leavitt was fired, Miller had actually recanted his original accusation that the coach had grabbed him by the throat at halftime of a Nov. 21

“I’m very disappointed,” Leavitt told  “I’ll respond at the appropriate time. “

Oh, he’ll respond all right, probably with some “inspiration” provided by Leach’s lawyers.

The next coach could walk into a gold mine. In the fluid Big East, South Florida could win the league as soon as next year. I’d love to see Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney get another shot. He got shafted after 12 years at Iowa State and has rebuilt his rep with a national championship with the Gators.

You can bet agent Jimmy Sexton will be trying to get his client Tommy Tuberville an interview. You even hear the name of Steve Spurrier. South Florida could be his retirement job.

Home runs, all three.

Just like Leach and Mangino, though, you wonder if Leavitt will coach on the BCS level again.

Category: NCAAF

Since: Sep 29, 2008
Posted on: January 11, 2010 1:00 pm

The end of Jim Leavitt at South Florida

The guy is not a jerk, USF does owe him a huge debt of gratitude. But however storied his past has been, this incident casts too much doubt on his future. He's given the appearance of a time bomb in both his handling of the team during a game, and in his handling of a very serious allegation against him. For those reasons, I think USF made the right decision in aggressively cutting ties immediately following the investigation. That should in no way take away from his legacy in building the program, but I know it will. That's unfortunate, and the potential turbulent legal battle to follow is also unfortunate for him and the school since it puts USF in the same barrel as the other schools in turmoil right in the heart of recruiting season...both for players AND a coach!! The writing is on the wall, if Jim loves the school, he needs to let go of reinstatement and just concentrate on clearing up his name, if indeed there's nothing to the allegation.

Since: Aug 7, 2008
Posted on: January 11, 2010 12:08 pm

The end of Jim Leavitt at South Florida

It seems to me like the reason that he was fired was mostly because of what took place after the accustions surfaced, bullying and lying. Get your facts together pal. Are you Jim Leavitt's boyfriend or something? The guy is a jerko.

Since: Jan 6, 2007
Posted on: January 9, 2010 4:30 pm

The end of Jim Leavitt at South Florida

Good take,  Craig.  I agree with you.  Florida and Texas are by far the most fertile and bountiful recruiting grounds.  I do see potential opportunity given the flux in the other Florida schools besides Miami.  I think Miami probably makes out the best in this whole thing.  It is kind of sad that Leavitt leaves this way.  USF pretty much owes him everything in establishing their school as a legitimate Big East football program.  But it may be time to move on anyway regardless of this situation.  USF will land a stud coach and they will continue to push the other big east schools.  I am a Jayhawk and we went through a similar well documented scandal and coach firing, err..buyout with Mangino.  Most of us Jayhawks though feel much better off now with Turner Gill as our coach.  I am fairly certain most USF fans will eventually feel similarly as their program will command an oustanding new coach. 

Since: Dec 28, 2009
Posted on: January 9, 2010 2:06 pm

The end of Jim Leavitt at South Florida

As to Leach references.....the two sides arguing over the semantics of whether it was a shed or an electrical closet.  That distorts the Leach story entirely.  There is enough info out there for CSP Sports, even when making reference to the Leach situation, to accurately sum up the dispute.  Remember, Adam James on the first day he showed up in street clothes wearing sunglasses was put in the place nearest the practice field...a double car sized garage with running water.  For the next practice, with the trainers having more time to prepare, during the practice Adam James stayed in the visitor's media room in the stadium, a rather larger room capable of holding 50+ people and which had an electrical closet necessary for the media room.  Per Affidavit that CBS Sports and the widely available thanks to Team Leach, it is clear that Adam James was instructed not to go into the electrical closet because of its buzzing (trainers caring for him).  But Adam James did go into the electrical closet, brought a cell phone that he was not supposed to bring to practice, made a video and Spaeth Communications (Dallas PR firm who handled the Swift Boat Veterans' attacks and Kay Bailey) helped get the video on YouTube.  Craig James hired Spaeth, but why would Adam James, with his sensitive concussion go into the buzzing electrical closet contrary to instruction.  Why a video of a smiling James?  Why does the national media still use the phrase "electrical closet" without reporting clearly what the facts are.  Has Adam or Craig James disputed the Affidavit from Pincock?  Why does Dodd, his writers and editors perpetuate this falsehood?  Laziness.  Too convenient to refer to Leach in this manner for this article you are selling?  What gives with the lack of integrity here? 

Since: Jul 29, 2009
Posted on: January 9, 2010 1:21 pm

The end of Jim Leavitt at South Florida

Jim Leavitt deserved better from USF.

The player he "hit" recanted the story.  There are conflicts in the testimony from the witnesses. Leavitt denies the charges. There is just not enough here to justify a firing "for cause".

Many times we hear someone "built" a program but those claims are usually grossly exagerated. In the case of Leavitt and USF, there is no exageration. Leavitt built this program from, literally, nothing. From a trailer and less than Division I status, Leavitt brought USF to Division I and, eventually, to perenial Big East contender. Because of Leavitt and his drive USF was able to join the Big East and that has meant a huge amount of revenue for USF. 

Leavitt did wonderful things for USF.  Now, Leavitt is treated by USF like he is yesterday's trash. Shame on you USF. This man deserved better.

Now, because of Leavitt, USF is in a position to hire a high profile football coach.  When Leavitt started USF on its upward path many of the coaches now being mentioned couldn't even spell USF.  The USF job is now a good job.  It was less than a bad job when Leavitt started. It is only because of Leavitt that the USF program has progressed to the position of power where it now finds itself.

Unless the USF administration really blows it, they will hire a good football coach.  Steve Spurrier would be a "home run".  Yes, he built the Florida Gators into a national champion and he's had some success at South Carolina. But what really is impressive about Spurrier is that he won an ACC title at Duke.  Duke?  Yes, that Duke. Anyone that can build a conference champion at Duke deserves our respect.

Other fine coaches are being mentioned and the are coaching at schools where, pre-Leavitt, they would never have left for USF. You can be sure that Florida, Florida State and Miami are hoping USF makes a "bad" hire since they are the schools that are the most threatened by the emergence of USF. This is not to say that Florida, Florida State and Miami won't be powerful even if USF is powerful. But with USF in the mix it means these schools will, at least occassionally. lose a recruit to the Tampa schoo.

Jim Leavitt should be treasured by USF. He built them into a respected BCS school, got them into the Big East and made millions for the school.  Instead, an accusation by a young man that recanted the accussation has caused USF to end Leavitt's career.  Shame on you USF.  Good luck to you, Jim Leavitt.  You deserved much more from USF. 

Since: Oct 7, 2007
Posted on: January 9, 2010 12:14 pm

The end of Jim Leavitt at South Florida

Well, that is a question isn't it?  The pay for Leavitt this year was supposed to be $800K.  With the for-cause firing they'll be paying him around $66K.  The question really is: where does USF want their football program to be?  Are they content with being a middling player in the Big East or do they want to compete on a larger stage.  Leavitt had just signed a new contract that would have had him getting paid a lot more in coming years...still not Tuberville money (which is around $2.8M/yr according to Wiki) but it's not as big a stretch as it might seem at first glance.

USF is putting the finishing touches on their new practice facility and offices (very nice complex), they sit smack in the middle of the best recruiting ground in the country, they're a contender in their own conference (or could be with someone other than Leavitt running the show), they have a pretty good pool of talent on the roster...the position in Tampa ought to be a pretty attractive one to a guy like Tuberville.  And I for one would LOVE to see him on the sidelines in Tampa.

As for playing there, a coach doesn't play and yes, of course, we'd have to pay him.  I don't know of a single coach who does what he does for free...not at that level anyway.  :)

Oh, and one more little nugget to toss into the conversation: USF competes with the other Big 3 schools in the state for Florida talent and two of those are in flux right now (Bowden leaving FSU and Meyer and his health issues in Gainesville).  It might be an excellent time for USF to bring in a big name, respected achiever.

Since: Nov 9, 2008
Posted on: January 9, 2010 11:37 am

The end of Jim Leavitt at South Florida

On Mike Leach" he'll will be back in coaching in no more than 2 years and as much as it pains to say this... he's most likely going to "own" Texas Tech as well as maybe Craig "Big Daddy" James & ESPN! Who knows... if USC loses Pete Carroll as the reports suggest they are don't be surpried if Leach surfaces in California. Either way... Leach was railroaded at Tech and that's just a fact.

Since: Jun 8, 2008
Posted on: January 9, 2010 8:43 am

The end of Jim Leavitt at South Florida

Can SF even afford Tuberville? Would he even want to coach there? Which brigns me back to my first question, If he doesnt want to play there , you would have to pay him. I think he waits it out and see what he can get.

Since: Nov 3, 2008
Posted on: January 9, 2010 2:07 am

The end of Jim Leavitt at South Florida

Good Riddens ???

Good to see you got your "learn on" at school..........

Too funny,  thanks.

Since: Oct 7, 2007
Posted on: January 9, 2010 12:05 am

The end of Jim Leavitt at South Florida

Well, I can tell you as a USF fan, I started to get a seat near the edge last season after the loss to Pitt and completely fell off the Leavitt bandwagon this season after the Rutgers loss.  I've devoted way too many words on the USF boards about this.  That said, it's sad to see the guy leave the program in disgrace.  My take on it is that he likely did do something that was borderline or outright wrong...but compounded it a million times worse with the lying and probably with an intimidation campaign afterwards.  If he'd survived this and he'd bullied his players to keeping their mouths shut or simply lying to save their roster spot he would have gotten much worse.  It's good that this is handled this way the first time as it sets a precedent for what the school won't tolerate.

That all said, I can tell you that a great many Bulls fans would indeed like to see a Tuberville or perhaps McCarney in Tampa next season.  USF has been on the cusp of being a perennial power in the Big East but it's been my contention that Leavitt had taken the program as far as he was capable of taking it.  He topped out the Bulls a couple of years ago and since then it's been more of the same each year: fast starts followed by a mid-late season slump...and that slump is doubly bad as it comes against Big East opponents.  Kudos to the man that started the whole thing from a portable.  Fastest rise from beginning to ranked in college football I believe.  But his run has ended and I do so hope that USF sees this as an opportunity to take that next step.  Florida is the most fertile recruiting ground in college football and with FSU changing hands this season, Urban's tenure at Florida in'd be a great time for USF to make a positive move.

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