Former USF coach Jim Leavitt’s attorneys will have to wait to find out if they will have access to the public records they sought from the University regarding the investigation that led to his firing in January.
Judge Bernard C. Silver deferred ruling on the records in civil circuit court Wednesday. However, University attorney Richard McCrea agreed to provide subpoenaed documents in court that include notes detailing 29 witness accounts to the alleged incident from the internal investigation.
Silver granted McCrea until the end of next week to submit the documents, which will have names and other personally identifiable information redacted to protect students’ confidentiality through FERPA laws.
Previously, the University declined to make the documents available, claiming that they did not constitute public records.
University spokesman Michael Hoad said the first hearing offered no surprises, but that it is likely “the beginning of a long, drawn out” process between the two sides.
After the hearing, Leavitt’s eyes welled with tears when he saw and embraced four USF players in attendance – receiver Dontavia Bogan, running back Demetris Murray, cornerback Kayvon Webster and linebacker Sabbath Joseph – for the first time since he was fired after 14 years with the program.
Joseph mistakenly thought he had been subpoenaed to testify at the hearing because the University sent letters to 48 individuals notifying them of the hearing and the possibility that their confidentiality could be breached if the records were made public without redaction.
Leavitt’s attorney, Wil Florin, said the fact that nearly half of those named in witness interviews were not questioned shows the investigation was not conducted as thoroughly as the University claims was the case. He vowed to keep fighting until Leavitt’s name is cleared and contract is honored.
“We know that a number of these witnesses in previous filings have given testimony and statements that what was reported in this review was not accurate,” Florin said. “The picture will eventually take shape that this was a cherry-picked operation to get rid of a long-time employee who’d done a lot of good for this school under a pretext of something else. We just want the truth to come out because the truth’s on our side – plain and simple.”
The University terminated Leavitt after an internal investigation found that he slapped walk-on running back Joel Miller twice in the face at halftime of a game against Louisville on Nov. 21. Leavitt has maintained his innocence and claimed that the terms of his contract were violated. Former East Carolina coach Skip Holtz was hired as his replacement Jan. 14.