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Jim Leavitt seems unlikely to regain USF Bulls coaching job

Jim Leavitt wants his old job back. Of course he does.

From time to time, we all want things to be the way they used to be. Tiger Woods wants his sponsors back, and Marion Jones wants her medals back, and to his dying day, Richard Nixon wanted the White House back. Urban Meyer wants his health back, and Bernie Madoff wants his money (and yours) back, and Tommy Kirk wants Old Yeller back. I'd like my youth back, if you don't mind.

But it isn't going to happen.

Not for me, not for Leavitt, not for any of us.

It is over now. There can be no reconciliation. It does not matter how many lawyers flank Leavitt, and it does not matter how loudly he insists on his love for his players three days after a USF investigation determined he had slapped one of them around, and it doesn't matter how much he talks about the truth when the same investigation concluded he has not spoken it.

Oh, say this for Leavitt. He went out snapping and snarling and vowing to keep on fighting in a news conference that sounded a lot like a pregame speech. Fired or not, from the way Leavitt sounded, he still might show up on the sideline for the team opener and dare security to wrest the whistle from his fingers.

"I tell our football team, you've got to battle adversity for what you believe in," Leavitt said, his voice turning raw as he spoke. "You've got to stand up for what you believe in. And that's what I'm doing. I don't care how long it takes. I'm in it for my life, my name, my reputation, my family.

"Why shouldn't I continue to be the head coach at South Florida? I'm going to fight for it, ya'll. 'Cause I know what's right in my heart."

Yet, in a news conference called by Leavitt and held in the office of his attorneys in the name of "getting the truth out there," Leavitt didn't offer nearly enough facts in his own defense.

When asked if he had slapped Joel Miller, one of his players, Leavitt repeated "absolutely not," but he did not elaborate. When asked why players have said they witnessed it happen, Leavitt said he "couldn't get into it." When asked if he had interfered with the investigation, he dodged the question. He repeatedly said the stories about the incident were "misreported," although he would not say in what way.

In other words, Leavitt didn't say a lot he hadn't said before, and because of it, he didn't change a lot of minds. However you felt about USF and Leavitt before the news conference, you probably felt the same way after. There was no mind-changing evidence. There were no details that urged you to reconsider the university's report.

Think about it. If most of us thought we had been falsely accused, we would have screamed it from the rooftops. We would have come with maps and outlines and transcripts. We would have called witnesses. We would have offered polygraph tests.

Leavitt did not. At this point, I make Leavitt an eight-point underdog to get a significant settlement. I make him a 300-point underdog to get his job back.

It's hard to blame Leavitt for protesting his innocence, and if he wants to fight for the lost cause that is his job, well, bully for him. Frankly, though, it would have been more convincing if Leavitt went through the charges one by one and addressed them. It would have been better to talk more about the incident and less about love, more about the allegations of interfering with an investigation and less about the past 14 years.

For 12 1/2 minutes, Leavitt stood in the law offices of Florin Roebig. Scattered on the walls were plaques celebrating large settlements on behalf of the clients of the attorneys. It was enough to make a cynical man notice that none of the plaques seemed to celebrate a man being reinstated to his old job of coach. Yet, Leavitt swears it was not money that drove him to retain attorneys.

"I came here for $75,000 a year," Leavitt said. "I was making $95,000 at Kansas State. It never has been about money. I've been offered jobs that offer a lot more money than South Florida pays me. And that's well-documented. Why didn't I (leave)? This is the best place for Jim Leavitt. This is the best job for Jim Leavitt."

Once, maybe most of us would have said the same. Look, Leavitt's love for USF was never on trial. Most of us wouldn't argue that; we'd argue that it doesn't matter. And that's the shame here. Too much of Monday's news conference sounded like a coach still arguing with the refs after the game is over.

So what happens now? Lawyers happen. Demands happen. Eventually, yeah, settlements happen. Eventually, doesn't everything boil down to money and lawyers these days?

Soon, a new coach happens.

To be honest, there isn't enough to believe that anything else will happen.

Jim Leavitt seems unlikely to regain USF Bulls coaching job 01/11/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 10:18am]

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