Leavitt could return to coaching with 49ers
TAMPA -- Moving quickly after a $2.75-million settlement with USF, Jim Leavitt's return to coaching football could wind up coming in the NFL.
The day after he settled his wrongful termination lawsuit with USF, the former Bulls coach was being considered for the linebackers job on former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh's new staff with the San Francisco 49ers, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Leavitt, who did not return calls seeking comment, hasn't coached since he was fired by USF in January 2010, after a school investigation found he had committed "serious violations" of its conduct policy by grabbing a player by the throat and striking him twice in the face during halftime of a Nov. 2009 game against Louisville.
Leavitt, 56, has a history with the Harbaugh family, going back to his first seasons at USF -- the Bulls played Western Kentucky, coached by Harbaugh's father, Jack, in each of their four seasons from 1997-2000. Last spring, before the NFL Draft, Leavitt took a trip to California and made stops at a 49ers practice, talking with then-head coach Mike Singletary, then went to Stanford to visit with Harbaugh. Leavitt had dinner with Harbaugh and his father, who said he has admired Leavitt since the first time he coached against him.
"It was a nice visit. I've always had tremendous respect for him," the elder Harbaugh said by phone Wednesday night. "His teams were always well-coached, well-prepared, played the game hard. My relationship with Jim has always been a good one."
Leavitt has personal ties to the DeBartolo family, which has owned the 49ers for more than 30 years -- he bought his home on Davis Islands in 2006 for $1.7-million from Lisa DeBartolo, the daughter of former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., who attended a charity dinner on Harbour Island with Leavitt when the Super Bowl was in town two years ago. A month later, USF football served as host for a DeBartolo Football Festival, a free clinic for more than 400 local youth and high school players.
Leavitt spent a significant amount of time during the past year getting to know the nuances of NFL schemes, spending early mornings breaking down game tape with former Bucs coach and current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden in Tampa. He was active in NFL scouting events leading up to last year's draft, attending the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., then the NFL combine as a guest of the St. Louis Rams. He also attended the personal workout of top overall pick Sam Bradford, now a Rams quarterback and division rival of the 49ers.
Leavitt's coaching history has been entirely in the college ranks. His only other chance to coach in the NFL came in 1996, when he had been hired at USF but the Bulls hadn't played a game yet. Vince Tobin, who had been Leavitt's defensive coordinator at Missouri, had asked him to be his linebackers coach with the Arizona Cardinals, but Leavitt said the chance to be a head coach meant too much to him and he declined the offer.
And as one last bit of intrigue, Leavitt would face the Bucs in his first season with San Francisco, as both the Bucs and 49ers finished third in their divisions, so they will meet in 2011 in San Francisco.