USF coach Leavitt fired amid allegations he hit a player
South Florida fired football coach Jim Leavitt after a school
investigation concluded he grabbed one of his players by the
throat, slapped him in the face and then lied about it.
A letter hand delivered to the coach and released along with
a report on the three-week probe said the university’s findings
were based on “independently corroborated statements of persons
found to be in the best position to observe your conduct.”
“Coach Leavitt committed a serious violation of our standards
of conduct regarding treatment of students,” university president
Judy Genshaft said Friday, adding a national search for a
replacement will be begin immediately.
Reached by telephone, the only coach in the program’s 13-year
history told The Associated Press he was “disappointed” and the
allegation was “absolutely false.”
Leavitt told investigators he has never struck a player and
that he was trying to lift the spirits of a player who was “down”
when he grabbed the player’s shoulder pads during halftime of a
game against Louisville on Nov. 21.
But the letter athletic director Doug Woolard presented to
Leavitt during a meeting with Genshaft stated informed the coach
“your description of your conduct toward the student athlete in
question was consistently uncorroborated by credible witnesses.”
The school also concluded Leavitt interfered with the
investigation by having “direct contact with material witnesses …
at a time you knew or should have known was critical to the review
Leavitt, who was 95-57, just completed the second season of a
seven-year, $12.6 million contract.
“I truly wish there had been another outcome to this
situation,” Woolard said during a news conference.
AOL FanHouse first reported the firing. Genshaft and Woolard
launched the investigation last month after a FanHouse report said
Leavitt had grabbed sophomore Joel Miller and hit him in the face
twice during halftime of the Louisville game.
Miller was penalized for an illegal block in the first half,
and he also was on the field when Louisville returned a punt for a
“I’m very disappointed. The allegations as reported are
absolutely false,” Leavitt said Friday. “I’m going to respond in
Citing Miller’s father, high school coach and five USF
players who were not identified, FanHouse initially reported
Leavitt struck Miller because he was upset about a mistake Miller
made on special teams.
Miller’s father later backtracked, telling reporters Leavitt
did not strike his son but rather grabbed him by the shoulder pads
while trying to motivate the sophomore walk-on.
Neither Genshaft nor Woolard took questions and specifics
about Leavitt’s were not discussed during the press conference.
Investigators talked to several players, who were not
identified by name and who either witnessed the alleged incident or
were told of it by a player referred to in the report as “Student
The report said during an initial interview with
investigators that “Student A” tried to play down the incident,
saying the coach grabbed his shoulder pads and “didn’t touch me in
any malicious way.”
The investigation concluded differently.
In his letter to Leavitt, Woolard said the athlete’s
statements after the probe began “are unpersuasive because they
were contradicted by the same student athlete in his conversations
with credible witnesses made close in time to when that conduct
Leavitt was hired in December 1995 and launched USF’s program
from scratch, operating out of trailers on campus in the early
years while guiding the Bulls’ swift progression from Division I-AA
to BCS conference member.
USF joined the Big East in 2005 and has played in a bowl game
every year since joining the league. The Bulls were ranked as high
as No. 2 in the nation in 2007 before a mid-season conference slide
dropped them out of the Top 25.
Similar collapses in conference play followed 5-0 starts each
of the past two years. The Bulls finished 8-5 this season.