Make us your home page
Instagram

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 senior receiver Colby Erskin tells investigators teammate Joel Miller said he was slapped twice by coach Jim Leavitt

USF football coach Jim Leavitt slapped walk-on Joel Miller twice in the face and grabbed him by the throat, a senior wide receiver told investigators, recounting what Miller said to him days after the Nov. 21 incident.

Colby Erskin, the first player to speak publicly about what he told investigators, was not in the locker room but said in interviews Wednesday with AOL sports site Fanhouse.com and WDAE-AM 620 that Miller told him what happened, seeking advice about what to do.

Leavitt has denied hitting Miller. Fanhouse.com reported on Dec. 14 that the coach slapped the sophomore running back twice at halftime of the Louisville game and that Miller told his father, Paul, and his high school coach, David Mitchell of Wharton, about it. Since then, Miller has said the coach did not hit him, and his father, quoted in the Fanhouse story, said the story exaggerated the incident and that his quotes were taken out of context.

The school is not commenting during its investigation — conducted by Sandy Lovins, associate vice president for human resources, and private labor counsel Tom Gonzalez — and has given no indication when it will be completed.

Erskin said his comments to investigators have caused a falling out with Miller but that other players who were in the locker room have backed the original account that Leavitt hit Miller. Erskin said at least five players told him they informed Gonzalez that the coach struck Miller.

Other players have publicly supported Leavitt.

"(Joel Miller) doesn't talk to me now. He's mad at me," Erskin said. "… He said something before about it was my fault. I said I don't know how it's my fault because I told you to tell the truth."

Erskin said Leavitt has been physical with players before.

"He hits his head against the wall every day when we watch a highlight film before a game and at halftime he head butts people," said Erskin, who played at Seminole High. "He's grabbed players before, not to that level. … He's done something similar to me, not to that degree, obviously."

Erskin has been away from the team since his third anterior cruciate ligament injury in October ended his final season and was the only player to choose not to attend the International Bowl last Saturday.

On WDAE he described a contentious relationship with Leavitt, who he said blames him for leaking the original story to Fanhouse. Erskin denied doing so. He said that after the bowl trip, Leavitt cleared out Erskin's locker and threw everything, including personal items belonging to the player, in a trash bin.

"(Leavitt) wanted to find somebody to blame. He was looking, and I was an easy target because I wasn't around," Erskin said.

Erskin said he was told Leavitt contacted his coach at Seminole High, Sam Roper, to say Erskin was the one who leaked the story. Roper told the St. Petersburg Times that he has not spoken to Leavitt about the matter.

Leavitt said neither he nor the equipment manager threw Erskin's possessions away.

"We always keep it because even the seniors work out in the spring," Leavitt told the Times.

Leavitt said Erskin had quit the team four times as a walk-on and had been allowed back by the coach against the advice of his assistants. Leavitt said his rift with Erskin, who later went on scholarship, comes from the coach not wanting to let Erskin play after his second ACL injury. Leavitt said he regrets allowing him back on the field despite the risk of another injury.

"I should have been stronger with him," Leavitt said. "I felt bad for him. Some kids, the more you do for them, the more trouble you're in with them."

Times staff writers Greg Auman, Frank Pastor and Bob Putnam contributed to this report. Auman can be reached at auman@sptimes.com.

USF Bulls senior receiver Colby Erskin tells investigators teammate Joel Miller said he was slapped twice by coach Jim Leavitt 01/06/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 11:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Life sentence for man convicted in killing of brother of Bucs' Kwon Alexander

    Bucs

    An Alabama man who shot and killed the 17-year-old brother of Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander in 2015 was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, the Anniston (Ala.) Star reported.

  2. Rays journal: Blake Snell continues roll in win over Cubs (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was still a game in the fifth inning when LHP Blake Snell walked the leadoff batter, then allowed a single. One swing by the Cubs' Ian Happ (22 home runs) could put a dent in the Rays' three-run lead.

    Blake Snell allows just two hits in pitching seven scoreless innings.
  3. Remember him? Numbers prove Ben Zobrist is one of greatest Rays of all time

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first foray back to the Trop by the best manager the Rays have had obscured the second return visit by arguably the second-best player in franchise history.

    Figures.

    Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) grounds into a double play to end the top of the third inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Cubs game

    The Heater

    One success story of this lost season is the emergence of LHP Blake Snell as the frontline starter the Rays projected. After a rough start and two demotions, he has been rolling, Wednesday's solid seven innings making him 4-0, 2.57 in his past eight starts.

  5. Rays at Orioles, 7:05 p.m. Thursday, Camden Yards, Baltimore

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Orioles

    7:05, Camden Yards, Baltimore

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM; 680-AM (Spanish)

    Probable pitchers

    This is a 2017 photo of Matt Andriese of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. This image reflects the 2017 active roster as of Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/David Goldman)