A dark period in USF history came to a much-needed end on Tuesday when former USF head football coach Jim Leavitt reached a settlement with the University that ended a long legal battle over how his termination was handled and what compensation he was owed.
Though the move may garner criticism, it’s one that’s still in the best interest of the USF community.
Prior to his termination, Leavitt was the only football coach USF had ever known, hired in 1995 to start the program. He led the program from its humble beginnings as a Division I-AA independent team, when the main football offices were locatedin small trailers that coaches would avoid showing recruits, to a No. 2 national ranking in 2007, several bowl victories and the pride of USF.
All of this led to talk of Leavitt becoming USF’s “Bobby Bowden,” a coach that would be a patriarch of the program and synonymous with the University.
This all came to an end last year with Leavitt’s termination after a University-funded independent investigation concludedthat Leavitt assaulted special teams player Joel Miller during halftime of the Louisville game on Nov. 21, 2010.
Leavitt denied the accusations, and two camps quickly formed – one defending the coach, the other condemning him.
Both sides had witnesses to corroborate their stories and all of USF, Tampa Bay and the nation watched as the ugly sparring unfolded.
Leavitt had been seeking up to $7.1 million, an amount equal to 75 percent of his remaining seven-year contract and what would have been paid out to him had he been fired without cause – while USF only wanted to pay him what was due if he was fired with cause – a little over $66,000, one month of his base pay.
The $2.75 million settlement Leavitt received might imply, for some, that the University admits it acted wrongly in his termination process, invalidating its investigation’s results. Regardless, the money is a small price to pay to bring such a long and bitter part of USF history to an end.
In January, USF hired Skip Holtz as the new coach. The subsequent season saw the Bulls earn an 8-5 record and a victory against Clemson in the Meineke Care Car Bowl last month.
Despite the season’s relative success, a dark cloud still lingered over Raymond James Stadium and the program as a whole, as fans watched their new coach leading the Bulls without fully knowing the final fate of the only other coach they’ve ever known.
This cloud of uncertainty would keep not only Leavitt, but also all of USF from truly moving forward.
That’s why, regardless of how much $2.75 million may cost the USF athletic department, the peace of mind it provides is truly priceless.