TAMPA — The University of South Florida directed a vice president and an outside labor lawyer to investigate a claim that football coach Jim Leavitt struck a player, university President Judy Genshaft told trustees Wednesday.
Genshaft said she and athletic director Doug Woolard convened an independent review within hours of hearing the allegation on Monday.
The review is being conducted by Sandy Lovins, associate vice president for human resources, and private labor counsel Tom Gonzalez.
"I wanted the board of trustees to know how seriously we take this allegation and that we moved on this immediately," Genshaft said. "We're committed to a thorough review by the university but in conjunction with an outside expert."
Woolard said, "Our goal is to ensure that we do have due process, we have fairness to everyone that's involved, and we've asked for this review to be done as thoroughly as necessary but as quickly as possible."
USF board of trustees Chairwoman Rhea Law said she appreciated the response.
"This is something that is very visible, not only within the university community but outside the university community, so we owe it a quick and very thorough response," Law said.
Leavitt this week strongly denied the allegation that he grabbed sophomore walk-on Joel Miller by the throat and struck him twice in the face because of a mistake Miller made on special teams.
The Web site Fanhouse.com has reported that Leavitt grabbed and struck Miller during the halftime of the Bulls' Nov. 21 win over Louisville. The Web site based its report on comments from Miller's father, Miller's high school coach and five unnamed members of the USF program.
Since then, Miller's father has told tampabay.com that the incident was greatly exaggerated. Leavitt, Paul Miller said, grabbed his son by the shoulder pads and did not strike him.
The incident took place during a halftime in which Leavitt head-butted a player wearing a helmet. The head-butt, something Leavitt has done before to motivate players, opened a bloody gash across the bridge of the coach's nose and left a red mark above his left eye.
In response to the allegation, USF administrators said the incident would be investigated by a party other than the athletic department.