Video: Jim Leavitt's news conference
Former USF coach Jim Leavitt, fired on Friday after a university investigation found that he grabbed a walk-on running back by the throat and slapped him twice in the face during halftime of a game in November, has retained an attorney and will hold a news conference at noon in Palm Harbor.
A statement released on Leavitt's behalf by the law firm of Florin Roebig says that Leavitt's termination was "unwarranted" and that he "deserves to be immediately reinstated in full to his former position."
These are Leavitt's first public statements since brief comments Friday morning, when he said he was "very disappointed" and would "respond in time." The attorney's statement says that the firing was "contrary to the terms of his contract and in violation of his constitutional rights."
University investigators talked to 20 players and nine others in attendance during halftime of USF's Nov. 21 game against Louisville, and despite conflicting statements on whether Leavitt grabbed the player by the throat or shoulder pads, their findings were that Leavitt committed "serious violations" of the school's conduct policies, including lying to investigators and interfering with the investigation.
Leavitt's statement says that walk-on Joel Miller and his father Paul "have both repeatedly denied publicly and during the University's investigation that Coach Leavitt did anything improper." The Miller family has retained the services of Tampa attorney Barry Cohen, who has not determined if any civil action will be taken against USF, Leavitt or anyone else.
USF determined Leavitt's firing to be "with cause," which means under the terms of his seven-year, $12.6-million contract, he would only be paid one month's base pay, which is $66,667. Had he been fired "without cause," he would be entitled to 75 percent of his remaining contract, which is $7.1-million.
USF has begun a nationwide search for Leavitt's replacement, with running backs coach Carl Franks elevated to interim coach and all nine assistants kept on staff until a new coach is named.