Where in the world of college football is Jim Leavitt going?
With vacancies at Miami, Alabama and North Carolina State, Leavitt is a hot commodity in the coaching ranks. Alabama went after Leavitt in 2002 after firing Mike DuBose. He turned them down.
The Crimson Tide are interested in Leavitt again after firing Mike Shula on Monday, but Leavitt made it clear that he wants to stay with the program he built. The coach has ties to the Tampa Bay area, having grown up in St. Petersburg and attended Dixie Hollins High School.
“I’m very fortunate to be here and be in the position that I am here,” Leavitt said. “This is a great place to live, have a great university, play in a BCS conference and play in a great stadium.”
Leavitt spent seven years alongside Bill Snyder at Kansas State and helped rebuild that program. His loyalty to Snyder and the Wildcats epitomizes Leavitt’s character, and he has stood by his character in remaining at USF.
Leavitt asks all his players to have loyalty and commitment to the program, and he leads by example.
“It’s really big to know that the coach is going to be here,” senior linebacker Stephen Nicholas said. “It’s good to know that Coach Leavitt has been here for a while and that he’s not going anywhere.”
Leavitt likes to play up the fact that he’s just a football coach, but he is smarter than people believe and he showed that intelligence last year. The smart decision was to stay at USF because he has established the program his way and stuck with his plan.
Football histories at schools such as Miami and Alabama were established by other coaches. The little history USF’s football program has was created under one coach, and Leavitt wants to keep it that way for as long as possible.
The commitment of Leavitt to the program plays a big part in his pitch to bring prospective recruits to Tampa. Leavitt doesn’t make it a point to emphasize his plans to stay at USF, but redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Grothe admitted that it does play a part in the decision for recruits.
“(Leavitt) is fun to be around, and he has always said that he’s going to be here for a while,” Grothe said. “That played a big part – that he did stay – in me coming here.”
Leavitt is like any other football coach in many ways, answering questions about his team with clichÃ©s and referring to every opponent as “a very good football team.” Despite the local media not believing everything he says, Leavitt was very emphatic about his desire to stay put.
“People know how much I love this place, and I don’t think I need to keep saying it,” he said. “I’m not interested in any other job and don’t want to go anywhere.”
Leavitt has proven his $1 million-a-year worth more in this, his 10th season, than in any other since taking the job in 1997. Because of his success, Leavitt will be at the top of every coaching vacancy in the future.
But he’s not going anywhere.
Leavitt is slowly creating a buzz about USF football in Tampa and calls his own shots in the program. The only pressure to win comes from Leavitt himself, because the growing success of the program is a plus for an up-and-coming university. In Alabama, if Leavitt doesn’t beat Auburn, he faces the same fate in four years that Shula did this year.
USF is a perfect fit for Leavitt, and the University understands this is the coach to take it to the next level. Just look at his track record when the media tabs his team for failure.
Leavitt has taken a team that was thought to be doomed by the loss of running back Andre Hall and become bowl eligible for the second consecutive season. Despite having to deal with player issues, Leavitt had his team ready to play every week and recorded eight victories in his second season in the Big East.
He’s still building this program to reach the status of a Florida State, Florida or Miami. A 24-19 victory over West Virginia helped the cause, and a bowl victory is another step toward a Big East championship and, ultimately, a shot at a national championship.
That’s been his goal since he took over the program, and he plans on ending his coaching career at USF.
“I’ve always said I want to retire here and sit up in the stands and watch the Bulls win championships,” Leavitt said. “This is the best job in the country.”