It took coach Jim Leavitt 10 years to get the Bulls football program on track in joining the Big Three – Miami, Florida State and Florida – in terms of success. It might be just one off-season that brings all the hard work crumbling to his feet.
With the momentum of reaching the school’s first bowl game and a successful first year in the Big East, the expectations for the program are steadily increasing. In a Tampa Tribune article that published Aug. 3, Leavitt even said the Bulls are in the room with FSU and Florida for a shot at a national championship.
After a nightmare of an off-season filled with off-field player issues and recruits failing to qualify, Leavitt and his Bulls could be pushed out the door of the championship room of which he was speaking.
From quarterback Carlton Hill’s roller-coaster spring in the classroom and his arrest in a dorm room to three players – Jackie Chambers, Josh Julmiste and Ricky Ponton – failing a second drug test, Leavitt couldn’t have imagined a worst-case scenario for his team.
But when does Leavitt make a statement to his players or become accountable for these actions? Why hasn’t Leavitt, who is known as a disciplinarian, used an iron fist with these troublesome players?
There have to be consequences for their actions, and Leavitt needs to do what’s best for his team, even if that means getting rid of talented players.
Leavitt has yet to acknowledge questions he has answers for, including who will be the starting quarterback, why these players are still getting in trouble and why a third of his recruiting class isn’t on the field or in class.
Leavitt’s praised his recruiting class during spring drills and was excited about the incoming freshmen. How does Leavitt feel now that his recruiting class has diminished in just three months?
No one knows, because Leavitt isn’t talking about it.
Ponton, Julmiste and Chambers will miss at least the first two games of the regular season, possibly six games. All three players are appealing the punishment of having to miss six games.
But unlike Ponton, this isn’t the first time Chambers and Julmiste have been in trouble.
Chambers was seen in a picture on a Facebook page with Hill and former USF player Johnny Peyton as Peyton held up what looked like a bag of marijuana. So is it a coincidence Chambers is now failing his second drug test while playing at USF?
I don’t think so.
Julmiste got into trouble in 2004 and had to withdraw from USF after he and two teammates were accused of removing $4,000 worth of property from a former player’s dorm room. Now Julmiste comes up failing a second drug test.
Notice a pattern here?
Leavitt, however, has done little or nothing to show Chambers, Julmiste or other players on the team that this behavior will not be tolerated. Instead, he tries to keep these acts quiet or tries to cover them up to keep anyone from knowing how these players conduct themselves off the field.
In a Tampa Tribune article that was published Sunday, Leavitt said even if players did violate team rules, he wouldn’t tell the media. He also said a violation of team rules is between him and the team.
That’s a lame excuse for not being able to keep his players in line.
Even if Leavitt had a three-strikes-and-you’re-out type of policy in place, Julmiste should be on his way out and Chambers should be hanging on by a thin thread. Julmiste and Chambers, however, will probably serve just a two-game suspension and be on the field just in time for Big East play.
So what price is Leavitt willing to pay for success?
It has to be a big price, since according to Leavitt, Ponton and Julmiste weren’t even going to be starters this season. So if he can’t make a statement with a six-game suspension or cutting loose backup players, what will he do if Amarri Jackson or Stephen Nicholas fail a drug test or get in trouble with the law?
Leavitt has done wonders for this program and has built it from the ground up with quality players such as Andre Hall and Marquel Blackwell. It may be players like Julmiste and Chambers who hinder this team from continuing its progress in the national championship picture.
This is already becoming an interesting season for the football program, and it hasn’t played its first game of the season yet.
The clock is ticking for the Bulls, and the fuse connected to this time bomb is slowly burning and could explode at any moment.