It’s payback time for Jim

USF cannot let this happen.

I repeat: USF cannot let this happen.

If Jim Leavitt is allowed to leave and replace Bill Snyder’s vacancy at Kansas State, the Athletic Department will have a hard time – actually, an impossible time – finding a suitable replacement.

Since the infancy of the football program, Leavitt has guided the team with precision and made his players believe, year after year, that not only do they belong on the same field as the NCAA elite, but they also can actually defeat them.

Leavitt guided the Bulls to an 8-3 record in their first year of Division 1-A football in 2001 and to a miraculous upset win over the Pittsburgh Panthers the same season. The victory over the Panthers also put USF in one of the top 25 polls for the first time, just five years into the team’s existence.

It doesn’t end there, folks.

Leavitt, in his ninth season as coach, has an impressive record of 60-36. He gained his 50th win in rocket-like fashion. Only five Division 1-A coaches have gotten to that milestone faster: Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Tennessee’s Phil Fulmer, UNLV’s John Robinson, Penn State’s Joe Paterno and Michigan’s Lloyd Carr.

Not even a year into the Big East, and the Bulls already look like a team that’s been in the conference for a decade or more. Under Leavitt’s guidance, this year’s squad did the unthinkable when it defeated previously unbeaten No. 9 Louisville 45-14 on Sept. 24.

The Bulls are also in the hunt for their first bowl game ever – of course, with a little help from Mr. Leavitt.

So far in 2005, USF is ranked among the NCAA leaders in defense (18th), sacks (9th), and rushing (10th), and running back Andre Hall is ranked fourth overall in rushing.

That’s another point. Leavitt seems to have a knack for picking up players whom no one has heard of and end up making a name for themselves.

Example, you say?

Well, how about, Amarri Jackson, for instance? A junior college transfer who comes out of nowhere and becomes one of the most potent offensive weapons on the team.

Now, you might ask, “Why would Leavitt leave Tampa, a place he himself calls home?” Leavitt was defensive coordinator at Kansas State for six years. During that time, he and Snyder became good friends. Snyder is now retiring after 17 years of coaching, and Leavitt’s name is in the proverbial hat for the job.

“But didn’t he just get a huge contract in 2003?” you say.

Yes, but that doesn’t matter.

Leavitt’s salary is $542,000, which ranks fourth lowest among 66 BCS conference schools. And KSU would only have to pay $50,000 to USF if Leavitt left early.

If USF wants to continue to make huge strides in its athletic program and become one of the most highly respected football programs in the country, then give the man his due.

Show him the money, or show him the door.