Longtime Leavitt partner leaves team

Doug Elias was named strength and conditioning coach at West Virginia Monday, ending a three-year stint with the Bulls and an even longer association with USF football coach Jim Leavitt.
Elias and Leavitt first worked together in 1990 at Kansas State when Leavitt was a linebackers coach and Elias was a graduate assistant. Leavitt brought Elias to USF as the strength and conditioning coach in 1998.
“I think he did a good job,” Leavitt said. “He worked hard and did a good job for us.”
Elias told the Tampa Tribune that the Mountaineers’ 22,000-square-foot weight room (USF’s facility is 2,000-sqaure-feet) was the biggest attraction for him.
“It’s phenomenal,” Elias said. “I was really impressed with that and the people. That was the main factor for leaving.”
Leavitt said Elias will also be making roughly $20,000 more than he did at USF.
“I’d love to be able to pay them (coaches) more but we’re not in that situation,” Leavitt said. “We don’t have the salary base of other Division I schools. Hopefully, one day we will.”
Elias also told the Tribune the decision to leave USF was not an easy one.
“I worked with some great kids and great people at USF,” Elias said. “When I told the kids goodbye, that was pretty tough. In the long run, I think this is a better situation for my family.”
Elias is the second USF coach to join the Mountaineers this off-season. Former running game coordinator Calvin Magee left USF in January to take up a similar position with West Virginia.
The strength and conditioning duties now fall to Elias’ former assistants, Ronnie McKeefery and Marty Lehman. McKeefery said Elias’ best asset was the way he related to the student-athletes.”The best thing about Doug was he related extremely, extremely well to the players,” McKeefery said. “He had the respect. They all looked up to him.”
McKeefery said Elias will be missed, but nothing much will change with the strength and conditioning programs.
“It’s basically the same as it always is,” he said. “It’s a team concept here. We all overlap to some degree. Whenever you have a 2,000-square-foot weight room, you’re working with everybody, (regardless) of the sport that you’re working with.
“Right now we’re just a man down. We don’t have the flexibility that we had when Doug was here. So it’s a little longer hours as far as doing the paperwork and stuff. But nothing changes as far as the athletes are concerned.”
Lehman, who has been with the Bulls for five weeks, agreed.”The thing with the athletes is that we try not to miss a beat,” Lehman said. “We’ll miss him as a staff but our goal as a staff is to not miss a beat, and finish these kids off for the summer and get them into the season, just as if Coach (were) here.”
Lehman added that the departure of numerous assistant coaches from the football program – six in two years – is not necessarily a bad thing, but a sign that the Bulls’ program is gaining respectability.
“A great deal of people around the country think that’s a negative thing, that our athletic department’s got people leaving the football program all the time,” Lehman said. “Being on the inside, I look at it as a positive thing … why are people leaving? Because other people around the country want them.”
Life without Elias may prove to be a big adjustment for Leavitt, but he endorsed the abilities of the rest of the strength and conditioning staff.
“We feel like we’ve got capable people. I don’t think we’ll lose any ground,” Leavitt said.