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USF Bulls coach Jim Leavitt declines to talk about allegations of striking a player, cites fairness issues

TAMPA — The end of Wednesday's football practice, the first opportunity for USF coach Jim Leavitt to publicly answer questions about allegations that he hit a player in the face during halftime of a game last month, drew a large contingent of media members from local newspapers and radio and television stations.

Leavitt has been outspoken in phone interviews in stating his innocence, but he declined to answer any questions about the alleged incident Wednesday, saying he didn't want to take away from the university's investigation into what did or did not occur during halftime of USF's win against Louisville on Nov. 21.

"I'm not going to talk about all the other things that are going on," said Leavitt, who's preparing his team for its Jan. 2 International Bowl game against Northern Illinois. "I don't think that'd be fair to the whole deal. You can save your questions as far as that goes."

Walk-on sophomore running back Joel Miller, the player AOL sports site Fanhouse.com reported Leavitt grabbed by the throat and hit twice in the face, left practice early. Leavitt, 53, said Miller, 21, left because of a shoulder injury the Wharton High grad suffered in a loss to Connecticut on Dec. 5.

USF revealed details of its investigation, which was convened by university president Judy Genshaft and athletic director Doug Woolard. Genshaft told USF trustees Wednesday that the review will be 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.

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@sptimes.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.

USF Bulls coach Jim Leavitt declines to talk about allegations of striking a player, cites fairness issues 12/16/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 17, 2009 6:08pm]
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