Miami AD fondly recalls playing for Leavitt
TAMPA -– Jim Leavitt has been coaching football at USF for 13 seasons, but never before has he taken the opportunity to make fun of an opposing athletic director’s height.
"Guy’s about 5-9. He’ll say 5-10," Leavitt said of Miami athletic director Kirby Hocutt. "He weighed about 190, and he beefed up to a strong 206."
Leavitt can speak with affection about Hocutt, who played linebacker under Leavitt for four years at Kansas State, graduating in 1995.
"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."
Hocutt, 38, returns the admiration, saying that Leavitt showed him the ability to get as much as possible out of undersized, often overmatched players.
"You won’t find any coach in the country that has more energy and is more intense than Coach Leavitt," Hocutt said. "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."
Hocutt was working for the NCAA in 1998 when he came to Tampa for a site visit leading up to the 1999 Final Four in St. Petersburg. He stopped by USF’s campus to see Leavitt, who had just completed his second season with the Bulls.
"He walked me around the campus, and his vision for what that would be someday, where they were going to build a football support facility and locker room, it was so exciting," Hocutt said.
Asked about Leavitt finishing Saturday’s game against Louisville with a bloody gash on his nose from a halftime headbutt, he said he remembers the same wild intensity 15 years ago.
"I don’t remember being on the receiving end, but I remember a few headbutts," he said. "He had the uncanny ability to get the most out of people. Of our starting three linebackers, two were 5-10, under 200 pounds … (the third) was 6-2 and had the smallest biceps in college football. I can still hear Coach Leavitt in the film session one Sunday after we played Oklahoma. We were dominating Oklahoma that day. He said 'I just radioed up to the other assistant coaches and said 'Can you believe this? Look at the three linebackers I have out there and we’re beating the University of Oklahoma.'"