Make us your home page

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

(View our Privacy Policy)

USF Bulls coach Jim Leavitt: 'So wrong' to say he hit player

Jim Leavitt, above, is backed by Joel Miller’s dad: “I stand behind the university and Coach Leavitt 100 percent.”

Getty Images

Jim Leavitt, above, is backed by Joel Miller’s dad: “I stand behind the university and Coach Leavitt 100 percent.”

TAMPA — USF football coach Jim Leavitt strongly denied accusations brought against him in a report by saying he grabbed a football player by the throat and struck him in the face.

"I'm appalled at it," Leavitt said Monday afternoon. "It's absolutely not true. It's so wrong. It's so far out there. I'm very disappointed something like this would be written."

According to the report, Leavitt, upset over a special teams mistake by sophomore walk-on Joel Miller during the first half against Louisville on Nov. 21, grabbed Miller by the throat then struck him twice in the face during halftime.

The report was based on comments from Miller's father, Miller's high school coach and five unnamed members of the USF program. Reached by the St. Petersburg Times on Monday, Paul Miller said the incident was greatly exaggerated and that Leavitt grabbed his son by the shoulder pads and did not strike him.

"I stand behind the university and Coach Leavitt 100 percent," Paul Miller said. "I truly believe there was no malicious intent to hit anyone. He grabbed his shoulder pad … but it was like a motivational thing. After talking with Joel, he was satisfied there was not a slap, not at all."

The incident took place during the same halftime in which Leavitt headbutted a helmeted player, leaving a bloody gash across the bridge of Leavitt's nose and a red mark above his left eye. The headbutt is something Leavitt has done several times as a motivational tactic.

Asked if he had any physical contact with Miller during halftime, Leavitt said, "I shook a lot of different guys, but not in a forceful way. In my heart, I know I did nothing wrong. Nothing like that. I care so much for him."

Paul Miller said his son has had a long relationship with Leavitt, attending USF football camps since he was 11 years old. After one semester at the Citadel, the Wharton graduate transferred to USF to become a preferred walk-on in 2008 and totaled seven special teams tackles as a redshirt freshman. He has four tackles this season.

The report quoted Paul Miller as saying "you do something like that, you put them in jail" and that Leavitt "crossed the line." He told the Times both quotes were taken out of context.

"He asked me what I did for a living, and I said, 'If you did that on the street, you'd go to jail,' " the former police officer said. "That doesn't mean I would say that about Coach Leavitt. That's not what was said. Joel said, 'Dad, we're fine. I know he didn't slap me. He was just trying to get me going.' "

Joel Miller calls his high school coach, David Mitchell, after most USF games to talk about his play. Mitchell said he talked with Miller after the Louisville game and he made no mention of the incident; Mitchell only heard of it Thursday when told by another high school coach who had heard about it.

"The best thing would be for (Miller) to tell you what went on, instead of me saying, 'This is what was told to me,' " said Mitchell, who was quoted in the Fanhouse report.

Joel Miller declined to comment when reached by the Times on Monday afternoon. USF's main communications department issued a statement Monday night that USF will look into the matter but will not comment further during that process.

"The University of South Florida is aware of the story and will review the matter promptly," said Michael Hoad, USF vice president for communications. "We're committed to ensuring due process for everyone involved. To ensure fairness, the university doesn't comment during a review."

Greg Auman can be reached at [email protected] and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at

USF Bulls coach Jim Leavitt: 'So wrong' to say he hit player 12/14/09 [Last modified: Monday, December 14, 2009 10:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Video: Gordon Hayward's message to Celtics from hospital bed after gruesome injury


    BOSTON — Gordon Hayward's face was etched in pain and shock.

    Gordon Hayward of the Boston Celtics sits on the floor after being injured while playing the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on October 17, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. [Gregory Shamus | Getty Images]
  2. Rick and Tom podcast: Where does Winston rank among top QBs?


    Where does Bucs QB Jameis Winston rank among current NFL QBs this year? The result might shock you. Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down a new poll by Sports Illustrated in their latest podcast.

    Where does Jameis Winston rank among the NFL's top quarterbacks?
  3. Epilogue: USF's Mike Radomski made thank-yous a way of life


    TAMPA — He was a sucker for baseball and benevolence. Mike Radomski tracked every gesture, regardless of how noble or benign, as meticulously as pitch counts in his volumes of scorebooks.

    Assistant director of communications Mike Radomski, who primarily served as the media liaison for men's basketball but also worked with several other Bulls sports, died shortly after 1 a.m. Oct. 12, 2017 in a car accident on Interstate 75 near his Wildwood home. He was 29. PHOTO PROVIDED.
  4. Cubs down Dodgers 3-2; force NLCS Game 5 Thursday


    CHICAGO — Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, former Ray Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

  5. Bucs' Vernon Hargreaves: 'I'm not making any plays'


    TAMPA — Eli Manning gathered his receivers together on the sideline during the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bucs and told them he planned to target the weakest link of the secondary all afternoon.

    Patriots receiver Chris Hogan gets position in front of Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves for a 5-yard touchdown pass in New England’s win on Oct. 5.