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Leavitt deal reflects high expectations at USF

TAMPA — The seven-year, $12.6-million contract Jim Leavitt signed Monday will make him the Big East's highest-paid coach. Is there additional pressure that comes with that title?

"I was going to feel the same pressure at $75,000 a year," Leavitt said, referring to his original 1996 salary with the Bulls. "When we lose, I destroy myself. So the pressure that comes with this means nothing to me."

Leavitt, 51, picked up his second significant raise in little more than two years: His 2008 salary of $1.5-million is nearly triple the $537,680 he made in 2005, and that salary will increase by $100,000 each year in the deal.

"This extension is reflective of the market, is highly competitive within the Big East Conference and continues to demonstrate our commitment and our desire to provide the type of program our fans and alumni deserve," athletic director Doug Woolard said in a statement.

The contract is very similar to the offer first reported in late January, and it's a major raise over his previous contract, signed two years ago, which paid $1-million per year through 2012.

With an average of $1.8-million per year, Leavitt jumps ahead of Connecticut's Randy Edsall ($1.5-million per year) and Rutgers' Greg Schiano ($1.7-million) to become the Big East's highest-paid coach. And the contract increases the salary pool for Leavitt's nine assistant coaches to $1.25-million, with the pool increasing by $100,000 in each of the next four seasons.

More than a month had passed since the offer was first reported, but Leavitt had said the delay "really wasn't much of a glitch" as he was attending to finalizing his incoming recruiting class and hiring two assistants to complete his staff.

Given the university's economic climate, USF was careful to point out that no state funds would be used toward Leavitt's raise, with the funding coming from USF's marketing agreement with ISP Sports and its new apparel contract with Under Armour.

Leavitt is the only coach in USF's 11-year football history, with a record of 79-47, including bowl trips in each of the past three seasons. A 6-0 start last season, including upsets of ranked Auburn and West Virginia teams, vaulted USF to No. 2 in the national rankings, and the Bulls finished their season at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, where they lost to Oregon 56-21.

Should another program try to pry Leavitt from USF, the cost of terminating the contract earlier is a high one: $1-million in 2008, with the buyout decreasing by $100,000 each year until it plateaus at $500,000 in 2013.

"I think that helps show a commitment on both sides," Woolard said.

The contract's incentives put no limit to USF's success and include $75,000 for playing in a BCS bowl, which escalates to $100,000 if USF wins the Big East, $200,000 if the Bulls play in the national championship game and $250,000 if USF wins a national title.

That last win-it-all clause was added to the contract since USF's initial offer was reported in January, as was a provision giving Leavitt $50,000 if the Bulls finish in the top 10 in the Associated Press or coaches' polls. Leavitt can earn $50,000 for being honored as Big East coach of the year.

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@sptimes.com or (813)
226-3346. View his blog at blogs.sptimes.com/usf.

>>FAST FACTS

State deals

How Jim Leavitt's contract stacks up with some other coaches in the state:

Leavitt, USF: $1.8-million per year through the 2014 season

Urban Meyer, Florida:
$3.2-million per year through the 2012 season

Bobby Bowden, FSU:
$2.4-million per year through January

Randy Shannon, Miami: $800,000 to $1-million a year through 2010 season

Leavitt deal reflects high expectations at USF 03/10/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 17, 2008 1:58pm]
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