Bottom line on former USF Bulls coach Jim Leavitt's lawsuit: How much money?

He will not get his job back. He will not have his name cleared. He will not have his reputation restored.

At this point, only two questions remain.

What does Jim Leavitt want?

And would he prefer a check or direct deposit?

Leavitt, the former USF football coach, filed his lawsuit Monday morning. Of course he did. From the moment school officials ripped his job from his clenched fingers, this has been the clear, inevitable final chapter of the story. Sooner or later, it was bound to come down to lawyers, funds and money. Nothing else is left for either side.

As lawsuits go, you can say this about Leavitt's: It's certainly heavy enough. It's 53 pounds of outrage jammed into 53 pages of legal jargon, and you have to wonder if the plan was to file it or to drop it on someone's foot as retaliation. Someone connected with the investigation that found reason to fire Leavitt, perhaps?

It's a shame. For the first time, Leavitt is one of USF's opponents. For the first time, he is on the other side. No matter whether you believe Leavitt is the George Washington of USF football or the Slap Maxwell, there is a sadness there. Sure, Leavitt has the same right to sue as anyone. Still, you would have liked to have seen a reasonable settlement. You would have preferred a quieter farewell.

Instead, we get the War and Peace of lawsuits. Read, and it seems to suggest Leavitt, 53, was the real victim of what happened in the locker room at halftime of the USF-Louisville game. As I read, I kept waiting to learn if attorneys were going to suggest that Joel Miller had, in fact, head-butted Leavitt in the hand.

All of this is natural, of course. Lawsuits are always one-sided. If they weren't, the attorneys wouldn't be doing their jobs. But, no, this document isn't exactly an impartial quest for truth and justice.

So what does the lawsuit say?

It says that Leavitt built the USF program, which no one doubted. It said he turned down other jobs over the years, which is beside the point. It quibbles about the definitions of "misconduct" and "interference," which is legal tap dancing.

It points out that Leavitt's program climbed quickly to No. 2 in the nation in 2007. It doesn't mention how the Bulls fell completely out of the top 25 by the end of the year.

It states that Joel Miller once told reporters the original story that he had been slapped by Leavitt was misrepresented. It doesn't mention that Miller later recanted and said that Leavitt met with him to get their stories straight.

The lawsuit spends 21/2 pages talking about the Colby Erskin allegation that Leavitt cleaned out his locker. It points out that Erskin was not a student at the time, so Leavitt could not have been guilty of retaliation against a student. The legal term for this is "nit-picking."

It suggests USF should not have forsaken the 10-day pre-termination hearing because recruiting doesn't constitute "exigent circumstances." But Leavitt's contract says "extraordinary or exigent circumstances." Ask any football coach if the importance of recruiting is a) ordinary, b) mundane or c) extraordinary, and I think you'd get "extraordinary."

None of this is to say the lawsuit doesn't raise some questions. If his attorneys have been denied public documents, well, why? If the reviewers did not record or transcribe interviews with witnesses, why not?

Then there is this. Leavitt's contract says that if he was fired "with cause," he was due one-twelfth of his contract. USF says that's a month's pay, or $66,000. Leavitt's attorneys contend it is one-twelfth of not a year's contract but all of his contract, or $375,000. Frankly, that's a point worth debating.

Much of the lawsuit also wonders why the witnesses who spoke on behalf of Leavitt were considered less credible than those who spoke against him. And maybe part of that is normal. In any trial, juries always consider some witnesses more trustworthy than others.

Since the investigation began, however, haven't all of us wanted to hear the witnesses for ourselves? The context? The inflections? How did the investigators decide how many witnesses were enough? How many were too many? Without being in the room, it's impossible to say.

Reading the lawsuit, you are left with the impression the attorneys believe someone was out to get Leavitt. If so, that would be news. Except for those disturbing November swoons, and the occasional grumpy mood, Leavitt seemed popular enough. If there was an anti-Leavitt conspiracy, it sure was quiet.

Now, Leavitt is yesterday's coach. That isn't going to change. The lawsuit isn't likely to make fans change their mind. Athletic directors, either.

From here on out, all that matters is money.

For Leavitt, there is nothing else to play for.

Bottom line on former USF Bulls coach Jim Leavitt's lawsuit: How much money? 03/15/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 15, 2010 11:40pm]

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