Will South Florida’s program suffer due to Leavitt’s lawsuit?

It was inevitable that former Bulls head coach Jim Leavitt would sue South Florida in an effort to recover the money he lost when he was fired on January 8. After all, he wasn’t going to leave millions of dollars on the table and just walk away into the dark of the night to never return.

But even if the situation was inevitable, this isn’t a situation that USF desired to be in. The program knows it had recourse to fire Leavitt and avoid paying him for the final five years left on his contract after allegations emerged that he slapped walk-on player Joel Miller. But the school would prefer to move on and start new head coach Skip Holtz’s career without this dark cloud hanging over its head.

Still, it’s a situation USF has to deal with and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of effect it’ll have on the program this year. Miller is still on the team, as are several of the witnesses that attest to Miller’s side of the story. Can the Bulls still be a power in the Big East if Leavitt’s lawsuit makes it to court? What will the media coverage of the story be?

With exciting quarterback B.J. Daniels set to enter his second season, South Florida has plenty to look forward to in 2010. But as his lawsuit can attest to, Leavitt isn’t going away quite yet.

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South Florida player wants apology from Leavitt

The player who claims Jim Leavitt slapped him twice is seeking an apology from the recently fired South Florida head coach.

From SI.com:

The attorney for Joel Miller said Thursday that the sophomore walk-on is not interested in filing a lawsuit, but could if Leavitt doesn’t “man up” and admit wrongdoing in the locker room incident that cost the coach his job.

Leavitt was fired last week after a university investigation concluded he grabbed Miller during halftime of a game, slapped the player twice in the face and then lied about it. The coach strongly denies the accusation and wants his job back.

“We’re ready for a fight,” said Barry Cohen, Miller’s attorney. “We don’t want a fight. We don’t want a lawsuit. We don’t want to pursue any criminal cases. We just want you to say, I made a mistake.”

“He grabbed me by the neck and he hit me twice,” said Miller, flanked by Cohen and sitting in front of his parents.

“Everyone knows the truth inside that locker room. All the players know the truth. All the coaches know the truth. … I covered it up, and then it got to be where it was too big for me to handle any more. All I want is for the truth to come out, and I want coach Leavitt to just admit that he did grab me and did hit me twice.”

If I were this young man’s parent, I’d probably recommend him to move on and concentrate on his playing career. But the eye-for-an-eye in me applauds Miller for seeking an apology. If Leavitt did hit him, then he deserves to suffer some public embarrassment for what transpired.

Either way, I think Miller will be waiting a while to get that apology. Leavitt isn’t going to admit to anything and further damage his reputation.

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South Florida fires head coach Jim Leavitt

South Florida has decided to fire head coach Jim Leavitt after he allegedly struck a player and subsequently lied to investigators.

From Fanhouse.com:

USF fired the only coach the Bulls have had in the program’s 13-year history following an investigation initiated after a FanHouse report that stated Leavitt grabbed sophomore Joel Miller by the throat and hit the walk-on twice in the face Nov. 21 at halftime of the Louisville game.

FanHouse first reported details of the incident Dec. 14. Five witnesses, USF players and staff members, said that Leavitt was upset by a mistake Miller made on special teams during the first half against Louisville, and subsequently struck Miller twice.

“You do something like that [on the street], you put them in jail,” Paul Miller, Joel’s father and a former Tampa police officer, told FanHouse at the time. “Somewhere [Leavitt] crossed the line.”

Wednesday, wide receiver Colby Erskin, who was not present in the locker room at the time, told FanHouse that Miller told him about the incident and asked for his advice on what he should do, a few days after the Nov. 21 incident.

Erskin also said Leavitt cleaned out his locker and threw his personal effects into a trash bin. Erskin said he believed that Leavitt suspected him of leaking the story to the media.

As the article notes, Leavitt was 95-47 during his tenure at South Florida. He essentially built that program from nothing and deserves credit for making USF relevant in college football.

That said, there’s zero excuse to hit a kid. There’s a difference between being a hard ass and hitting players because they screw up. If the report is true and Leavitt did strike Miller multiple times, then he deserves to be fired. Many of these college coaches have massive egos and think they can say and do whatever they want to players because they’re above them.

Leavitt found out the hard way that universities are stepping in to ensure that these types of situations don’t continue and won’t be tolerated.

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