Column: Leavitt’s lessons in diplomacy

Remember the movie Groundhog Day?

In the 1993 film, Bill Murray’s character finds himself in an endless series of redundant days. Listen to coach Jim Leavitt talk about the next Division IAA sacrificial lamb to come to Raymond James in as many weeks, Liberty, and you can’t help but relate to Murray’s character.

Prior to the Southern Utah game last week, Leavitt spoke of how tough the Thunderbirds would be. Final score: USF 42, SU 12. Against the “vaunted” Thunderbirds ground game Leavitt said he was so concerned about, the speedy Bulls’ defense smothered the Southern Utah option attack, surrendering only 80 yards rushing – 17 less than the pass-happy USF offense.

And against UConn the previous week, Leavitt again did his best Lou Holtz impression, speaking about how good the Huskies were. The result: USF 40, Uconn 21, although when the Bulls’ starters exited, the score was 40-9.

And just like in Groundhog Day, Leavitt’s pre-game comments about Liberty mirrored those of his statements before Southern Utah and Uconn.

Hey coach, here’s something that might catch you as off-guard as the ending of The Sixth Sense did – your team is good.The Bulls are two plays away from being 6-1 this year. Liberty is two seconds away from being demoted from D-IAA to NAIA.What, Liberty can’t be that bad? Consider this: the mighty Flames are two weeks removed from a 63-0 thrashing at the hands of Central Florida. Liberty was respectable in its last game, a 29-25 loss – to Gardner-Webb.

All together now – who?

Listening to Leavitt’s weekly press luncheon comments, I couldn’t help but think back to the bus scene from Bull Durham where Kevin Costner’s character coached Nuke Laloosh, played by Tim Robbins, on the politically correct, generic answers to give the media.

The beleaguered Flames’ secondary has given up an average of 314 yards passing in the last three games. In contrast, the Bulls’ spread attack has yielded an average of 313 yards during the last three games. This game screams mismatch. Now I’m not suggesting Leavitt morph into Mr T.’s character,

Clubber Lang, from Rocky III and spew bravado that might add fuel to the Liberty fire, but the Flames have as much chance of winning Saturday as the Bad News Bears would against the New York Yankees.

Nor am I suggesting leavitt should guarantee a win against Liberty. The beauty of sports is that nothing is guaranteed until the final seconds tick off the clock. Upsets make the sports world spin on its axis.

Remember the movie Hoosiers?

But I don’t think it would be out of bounds for Leavitt to say the Bulls should win this game, and that anything less than a convincing victory would be disappointing. Even if USF’s high-powered offense is clicking on only four of its eight cylinders, the Bulls should still win by three scores. USF is faster, stronger, deeper and more skilled than Liberty. I know Leavitt can’t say it publicly but I will: I guarantee the Bulls hammer Liberty Saturday.And even though Leavitt would never utter that to the press, I’m pretty sure he’s thinking the same. Come to think of it, maybe Hollywood should give me a call to play John Cusack’s role in a sequel – Being Jim Leavitt.

  • Brandon Wright covers football and can be reached at