Leavitt strays from coaching carousel

Is it fair to say Jim Leavitt is loyal to the USF program because he stayed in Tampa instead of leaving for a more lucrative position in Miami or Alabama? Or is he just loyal to the seven-year, $7 million contract extension he received this season?

Leavitt remained firm in his stance this season that his plans are to remain with the Bulls until he retires. His name was brought up following vacancies at Alabama and Miami, but he supposedly never entertained the idea of making a change.

With the rise of USF’s football program, quarterback Matt Grothe being mentioned in the same breath as the Heisman trophy and the school’s first bowl victory, Leavitt is becoming more than a blip on the coaching radar. According to nationalchamps.net, USF is ranked No. 25 heading into the 2007 season.

So should USF worry about Leavitt and his loyalty?

“The University is tremendous and it’s a great place to recruit,” Leavitt said after USF’s 24-7 victory over East Carolina in the Papajohns.com Bowl. “I grew up there, my family is there. What else can you look for? It’s a great place to be.”

Despite his words, if I were Athletic Director Doug Wollard, my nights would become more restless with every victory. It’s getting harder and harder to believe anything that comes out of a coach’s mouth, professional or college.

See Nick Saban.

For the past month, Saban was rumored to be the top candidate for the head coaching job at Alabama. But Saban went out of his way to deny he was even considering the Crimson Tide’s offer.

In a Dec. 21 article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Saban was quoted as saying, “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach.” On Jan. 3, Alabama named its new head coach and – surprise – it was Saban.

So much for Saban being a man of his word.Saban bolted for the money after realizing that his Bobby Knight-like iron fists didn’t pave the way to success in the NFL like they had in college. He jumped back into the kiddie pool of coaching that is college football after drowning for two years in the deep end of the NFL.

Louisville coach Bobby Petrino showed just as much loyalty as Saban to the Cardinals program when he accepted a five-year, $24 million deal to coach the Atlanta Falcons. Less than a week after winning the Orange Bowl, Petrino left a shot at a national championship with Louisville for a Falcons squad that is under .500.

Petrino met with his players on Sunday to let them know of his decision, thereby seriously damaging the hopes of returning players for a run at the national championship. Running back Michael Bush is going into the NFL draft after his senior year and, with Petrino’s exit, the decision for junior quarterback Brian Brohm to enter the NFL draft early just got a little easier.

Welcome to the Liars’ Club, headed by President Saban.

The concept of loyalty that is consistently being praised by coaches such as Petrino and Saban is less believable now more than ever. How can a high school recruit believe Saban will be his coach for his entire college career with his reputation of bouncing around the coaching ranks?

Ask LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell if Saban was true to his word.

So Leavitt said he wants to stay at USF and my heart wants to believe him, but my skeptical side makes me think otherwise.

Maybe he wants to be the next Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden and have his career evolve at USF. Maybe he wants to have players 10 or 15 years down the road come back to see him still leading the program he built.

“My biggest joy is to see the players smile and enjoy themselves,” Leavitt said. “I enjoy that so much.”

It’s hard not to believe that Leavitt’s loyalty is to the program and not the money. But there are no guarantees he won’t jump ship and head to the next job that offers him a lot more money than he’s making now.

Only time will tell, but for now Leavitt’s loyalty is to the 2007 season and a talented USF squad. The line for next season’s bidders starts at 4202 E. Fowler Avenue.

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