Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Barry Cohen, lawyer for USF walk-on Joel Miller, to speak today

TAMPA — As USF moved closer to naming a new football coach, attorneys for walk-on Joel Miller and fired coach Jim Leavitt made their own moves Wednesday.

Tampa attorney Barry Cohen, who is representing Miller's family, called a news conference for this morning. Cohen, who has made a name for himself with high-dollar civil lawsuits, did not give a reason for the news conference.

Cohen confirmed he spoke with USF players as part of his review of the allegations against Leavitt. A university investigation said Leavitt grabbed Miller by the throat and slapped him twice in the face during halftime of USF's Nov. 21 game against Louisville.

Leavitt denies the allegations, and Miller initially did as well, both to media outlets and in interviews with USF investigators. Cohen said Sunday that Miller, 21, was "truly victimized" by the incident and its aftermath and much of the trauma his client has suffered could have been avoided had Leavitt told the truth when the allegations were first made.

Leavitt's attorneys met with USF provost Ralph Wilcox on Wednesday for a "post-termination meeting," stipulated in his contract as part of his firing on Friday. They spoke for about 20 minutes, and Wilcox will report to USF president Judy Genshaft, who has one week to review the decision.

USF is not expected to change its ruling that Leavitt committed "serious violations" of its conduct policies, resulting in him being "fired with cause."

Leavitt, 53, isn't publicly seeking a settlement, but he wants his job back. His attorneys produced a new witness, the father of another USF walk-on and a volunteer assistant on the team who said he saw the incident but was not interviewed by the school.

"He was like 5 feet from me," said Mike Durakovic, whose account of the incident supports Leavitt's.

Durakovic, a former assistant at Sickles High who works as a builder and said he is not compensated by USF, said he saw Leavitt as he interacted with Miller and heard some of the coach's words.

"I heard him say, 'Hey! Come on! You're better than that! Don't worry about it!' " Durakovic said, recalling what he saw in the front left corner of the home locker room at Raymond James Stadium. "He had his hand on his shoulder pad. I saw him lift (Miller's) chin up with his hand. (Had there been a slap), I would have seen it.

"I did not see (Leavitt slapping Miller)."

Asked why he did not come forward during the investigation, which took more than three weeks and included interviews of 29 other people who were in the locker room, Durakovic said he "never believed" Leavitt would be deemed guilty of the allegations and was busy with his job and not around the team.

While supportive of Leavitt's account, Durakovic also contradicts Leavitt, who told investigators there was "no way" he could have touched Miller's face.

Barry Cohen, lawyer for USF walk-on Joel Miller, to speak today 01/13/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 11:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Kids still playing for all the marbles — literally

    Human Interest

    In this world of pompous athletes, overbearing coaches, money-grubbing owners and a win-at-all-costs mindset, it's easy to become jaded.

    Eli Murphy, right, leans in to give Sierra Ricci the traditional king and queen kiss at the National Marbles Championship in Wildwood, N.J. Both of Allegheny County Pa., they won the girls and boys championship of the 94th annual National Marbles Tournament. [Associated Press]
  2. Lightning takes defenseman Cal Foote with top pick in draft

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Former Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote said his son Cal lived in the locker room.

    Cal Foote, second from left, is welcomed to the Lightning by GM Steve Yzerman, far left.
  3. It's Rays' turn to pound Orioles pitching (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG - Ah, the fantastic four.

    The Rays smashed the reeling Orioles 15-5 on Friday, scoring a season-high in runs, to climb four games above .500 for the first time since July 1, 2015.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria scores on a triple by Logan Morrison during the first inning against the Orioles.
  4. Lightning journal: Plans set for 25th anniversary season

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — The Lightning revealed some of its plans for its 25th anniversary season Friday, including a ceremony to honor the 2004 Stanley Cup team.

    fit test: Top draft pick Cal Foote puts on his Lightning jersey.
  5. Rays designate catcher Derek Norris for assignment

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — C Derek Norris tied a career-high with three hits in Friday's 15-5 win against the Orioles then was designated for assignment after the game to make room on the 25-man roster for C Wilson Ramos.

    Derek Norris, right, celebrates with Logan Morrison as he scores in what could be his last game with the Rays.