Leavitt attorneys to get USF interview notes
For the first time in nearly five months, former USF coach Jim Leavitt found himself in the same room with Bulls athletic director Doug Woolard and USF President Judy Genshaft on Wednesday morning, at a hearing in circuit civil court for his lawsuit against the university over his firing in January.
Leavitt's attorneys sought to have all documentation from USF's investigation that led to his firing made public, and while circuit judge Bernard C. Silver deferred any ruling on the public-records aspect, USF's attorney, Richard McCrea of Tampa, agreed to enter into discovery the subpoenaed documents, which include notes taken from 29 interviews with witnesses to the incident that prompted USF to fire Leavitt after 14 years as head football coach.
"Today is the beginning of a long, drawn-out thing," USF spokesman Michael Hoad said after the hour-long hearing.
McCrea has until the end of next week to submit to Silver the notes taken by two investigators during interviews, with names and other identifying information redacted so as not to compromise student confidentiality rights. USF had previously declined public-records requests -- both from Leavitt's attorney and the Times -- for those documents, saying they were not subject to the state's public-records laws.
"We know the process that was engaged in was not thorough and complete. It certainly wasn't fair, wasn't professional," said Wil Florin, Leavitt's attorney. "We know that a number of these witnesses have given testimony and statements that what was reported in this review was not accurate. The picture will eventually take shape that this was a cherry-picked operation to get rid of a long-time employee who'd done a lot of good for this school."
Four USF football players -- linebacker Sabbath Joseph, receiver Dontavia Bogan, running back Demetris Murray and cornerback Kayvon Webster -- attended the hearing. It was their first chance to see Leavitt in person since his firing, but Joseph said he mistakenly thought he had been subpoenaed himself. USF sent 48 people named in the investigation a letter notifying them of the hearing and the possibility that their names and statements to investigators could be known if documents were made public without proper redaction.
In response to that, Florin pointed to the incomplete nature of the investigation, given that 48 people were named in interviews with witnesses, but only 29 were ultimately interviewed.
Leavitt was fired in January after USF's investigation ruled that he grabbed the throat of walk-on running back Joel Miller and slapped him twice in the face during halftime of the Bulls' Nov. 21 game against Louisville. Leavitt has denied the charges against him, and USF has since hired former East Carolina coach Skip Holtz to take over the program.