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Leavitt top candidate at Kansas State; Woolard says working on deal to keep coach at USF

With the departure of Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, Jim Leavitt has emerged as the top candidate to replace the man many call Leavitt’s mentor.

Snyder announced his retirement last week, just days for before his final game Saturday against Missouri, in which Snyder led the Wildcats to a 36-28 victory.

According to Kansas State sources, its focus has been moved to Leavitt because of his head coaching experience with USF and his time spent as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach under Snyder from 1990-1995.

Other candidates to replace Snyder include Oklahoma co-defensive coordinator Brent Venables and TCU coach Gary Patterson, but with Leavitt making only $542,000 this season on a contract running through 2009 and a buyout of his contract that is only $50,000, he might see a pay raise, especially with the Bulls becoming bowl eligible for the second time in school history with Saturday’s 31-16 over Cincinnati.

Athletic Director Doug Woolard said Monday he is working hard to keep Leavitt at USF.

“We’re working on a scenario that will allow coach Leavitt an opportunity to coach here and be here if he wants to be,” Woolard said.

Woolard went on to say he feels Leavitt, who is 61-36 at USF, has the desire to stay in Tampa.

“Ever since I’ve come here,” said Woolard, who is in his second year as athletic director, “anytime you are around him or hear him, he’s very specific (about staying at USF). This is home. This is where his parents live; he loves this area, and more importantly, he has a chance not only to build a legacy, but how many coaches get the chance to start a program and then have it have a chance to advance into a BCS conference, and that’s what has happened here.

“I mean, how many other coaches get that chance?”

When Snyder made his announcement last week, Leavitt’s name automatically popped up on Kansas State’s radar, but only recently has he been considered the top candidate.

When asked to specify his interest in the job opening, Leavitt diverted attention from himself, as he usually does, to this week’s upcoming game in Storrs, Conn.

“I just want to focus on Connecticut,” Leavitt said. “That’s what’s important.”

Woolard said he “didn’t know” what it would take to keep Leavitt at USF financially, but also stated he wasn’t surprised by the interest Leavitt has drawn.

“When people are successful at what they do, its not atypical that they will draw interest,” Woolard said. “And what I think it does is say a lot of positive things about your program.

“What I do know is that he does a good job, and I feel he’ll continue to do that if he continues to be the coach of our program.”