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Jim Leavitt wants his job back. And he’s willing to fight for it.
USF’s former football coach, who was fired Friday after an investigation revealed that he grabbed walk-on Joel Miller by the throat and slapped him twice in the face during halftime of a game against Louisville on Nov. 21, said at a press conference Monday that he wants to retain his job — again denying the allegations against him.
“I’m going to battle for my players in every way I can,” said Leavitt, who was sure the allegations against him had been misreported.
Leavitt spoke along with his attorney Thomas A. Roebig Jr. at his office in Palm Harbor. Roebig said Leavitt’s firing was “wrong contractually. It was wrong legally … He should be reinstated in his position as head coach of the USF Bulls.”
Roebig, along with Leavitt, submitted a letter to USF on Monday morning. He said the University violated Leavitt’s right to a pretermination meeting where he could address the allegations against him. The reason he was denied this meeting was because of an “emergency situation,” citing recruiting.
Roebig said that is “unfair,” and he also fought a posttermination meeting that was scheduled for 3 p.m today. That meeting has been canceled, however, USF officials told The Oracle.
Roebig said he wants to see all the evidence and analyze the report before Leavitt meets with USF officials, questioning the conclusion the University came to after the investigation had ended.
“Even if you take (the report) for what it is, the greater weight of that evidence supports coach Leavitt,” he said. “This episode is not as it has been portrayed to be. Some of those witnesses include a Florida state trooper. It includes (strength) coach (Ron) McKeefery who was standing 3 feet away and others who said this was not as it was portrayed to be.”
In response, USF released this statement today:
“The University of South Florida stands by its review and the findings from that review. We believe the reviewers, both internal and external, were fair, thorough and professional in finding that the head coach crossed a line in terms of his conduct. As the president said on Friday, this is a sad turn of events. Jim Leavitt worked hard for 14 years at USF, and it is disappointing.”
USF fired Leavitt, who was entering his third year of a seven-year, $12.6 million contract, with cause, meaning he would only be paid one month’s base salary, or $66,667. Leavitt would have been paid 75 percent of his remaining contract, or about $7.1 million, had he been fired without cause.
On Monday, Leavitt said the situation had nothing to do with seeking a monetary settlement with USF.
“I came here for $65,000 a year. I made $95,000 a year at Kansas State. It has never been about money.” Leavitt said. “I’ve been offered jobs for a lot more money … Why did I do that? Because this is the best place for Jim Leavitt.”
USF running backs coach Carl Franks has ben named interim head coach while the athletics department searches nationwide for a replacement.