TAMPA — Former USF football coach Jim Leavitt is apparently taking the gloves off.
A motion filed Tuesday in Leavitt's wrongful termination suit attempts to connect his firing in January to USF's signing of basketball transfer Gus Gilchrist 18 months earlier, alleging that athletic director Doug Woolard twice in summer 2009 (it's intended to be 2008) "personally confided" to Leavitt that USF had to find a job for Gilchrist's trainer, Terrelle Woody, as a "quid pro quo" to sign the transfer and that Woolard knew doing so would likely violate NCAA rules.
Woody worked two seasons as a strength and video assistant on coach Stan Heath's staff, but the NCAA reviewed the matter and found no wrongdoing in his hiring; NCAA by-laws have since disallowed the practice of hiring a close associate or relative of a recruit before or after his or her signing. Heath has been adamant that Gilchrist signed regardless of Woody's hiring two months later.
The motion filed Tuesday by attorney Wil Florin in Hillsborough County Circuit Court includes a previously submitted "request for admissions" from USF, which asserts that Leavitt advised Woolard not to hire Woody, citing an instance where Leavitt was presented a similar situation with a recruit from Miami. Woolard "was willing to risk violating NCAA recruiting rules in 2009 (sic) in order to strengthen the competitiveness of the USF basketball team," according to Leavitt's attorneys, and knew that "Gilchrist would not attend USF absent USF employing his close friend Terrell (sic) Woody."
The motion alleges that Woolard did not disclose his conversations with Leavitt to the NCAA when they reviewed Woody's employment last fall and that it was with those conversations in mind that Woolard "had a pre-determined mind-set to terminate" Leavitt "in order that Leavitt be publically (sic) discredited in the event Leavitt was questioned regarding his knowledge of the basketball recruiting issue and thereby protect Woolard's reputation and job security at USF and any future employment."
USF's legal response denies that the Woolard-Leavitt conversation took place and "denies that Leavitt ever rendered such advice; in fact, Doug Woolard had to caution Leavitt not to hire the father of a high school football player as part of a package deal when Leavitt was attempting to recruit the son."
The 55 requests for admissions from Leavitt's attorneys, most of which were denied in response by USF, have very little to do with the incident that led to Leavitt's firing — he was found to have grabbed player Joel Miller by the throat and slapped him twice during halftime of USF's Nov. 21 game against Louisville — and more to do with the procedural aspects of his firing and the investigation that led to USF's decision.
"It's a puzzling strategy. It feels to me like a desperate strategy," USF spokesman Michael Hoad said. "They're attempting to make a big deal of a small part of the legal process. A lot of this digging up old stories like Terrelle Woody, this case isn't about that. In the end, a jury is going to decide who is telling the truth. I don't think a lot of this is going to make a lot of difference in that."
This and that: With a huge wave of new facilities coming in the next year, USF is in strong position to contend for the right to host conference tournaments. The Bulls have submitted bids to host Big East postseason soccer and softball tournaments in the new facilities, along with golf, tennis and outdoor track. Winning bids should be announced in the next month. … Women's soccer, off to a 5-1-1 start, the program's best in 12 years, opens Big East play Friday night at home against Marquette. Chelsea Klotz leads USF and the Big East with eight goals in seven games.