Could Leavitt land with ex-player at Miami?
Whenever we've talked about the scenarios where former USF coach Jim Leavitt could resurface as a college coach, we've mentioned that it would likely take a situation where the athletic director were willing to vouch for him to a university president.
Could Miami be that situation? It seems unlikely to think Leavitt could land on his feet with such a coveted job, but he has a strong connection to Hurricanes athletic director Kirby Hocutt, who played linebacker for him in college when Leavitt was an assistant at Kansas State.
"You won’t find any coach in the country that has more energy and is more intense than Coach Leavitt," Hocutt told the Times a year ago this week, before last year's USF-Miami game. "I have so many great memories and friendships from those five years that have obviously had a strong impact on me, who I am today as a person, as a leader. I’m not the least bit surprised with the success he’s had at South Florida."
Leavitt, who has not commented publicly on the Miami opening, was mentioned as a candidate in a story in Monday's Miami Herald, identified by former Hurricanes linebacker Dan Morgan as a "name" he's been hearing. The story said Leavitt "will get consideration," citing unnamed sources. Leavitt spoke last year about the close relationship he still has with Hocutt.
"When we had some of those great defenses at Kansas State, Kirby was real instrumental in those defenses," Leavitt said. "He was such a hard worker, so focused, and really a good football player, a great leader. … He’s one of the most impressive people you’ll ever meet. We’re very close. I think the world of Kirby and couldn’t say enough good things about him."
Other coaches with solid resumes and less mitigating factors are also being mentioned as potential candidates for the Miami job, like Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville and Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, among others. Former Bucs coach Jon Gruden has been mentioned, though subsequent reports have him unlikely to leave the broadcast booth to coach the Hurricanes. Still, Leavitt is listed as having 2-to-1 odds on being Miami's next coach at sports gambling site Bodog.com (only Gruden, at 1:1 despite a statement stating his commitment to ESPN, has better odds.)
Leavitt, of course, was fired in January after a USF investigation found that he grabbed then- walk-on running back Joel Miller by the throat and hit him twice in the face during halftime of USF's November 2009 win against Louisville, then interfered with USF's investigation. Leavitt has denied all charges against him and has a wrongful termination suit ongoing against USF, seeking up to the $7.1-million that he would have been paid had he been fired "without cause." That suit isn't likely to be heard by a jury until sometime next fall at the earliest.
For Leavitt to take over a program as prominent as Miami, he'd certainly have to earn the approval of Miami president Donna Shalala, who spent eight years in President Bill Clinton's cabinet as Secretary of Health and Human Services. And if he chose Leavitt, Hocutt would very much be marrying his own future to Leavitt's success with the football program. Randy Shannon was fired Saturday night, just hours after the Hurricanes lost 23-20 to USF in Miami.
Leavitt addressed the Bulls' milestone win in a text message Monday afternoon. "Hope u understand so PROUD of the USF players. This is a very talented team. As I said, hope they win the BE," he wrote.