Former USF coach Jim Leavitt and his attorneys presented their argument to USF officials Wednesday morning in a post-termination meeting, saying the University violated Leavitt’s “constitutional due process rights” when he was fired Friday.
Speaking to reporters on Leavitt’s behalf, Tampa attorney William Florin said Wednesday that USF, citing an emergency situation, violated two of Leavitt’s pre-termination rights by not giving him at least 10 days notice of the firing and not allowing him a pre-termination meeting — both which are clearly stated in his contract. He said Leavitt should be reinstated as football coach.
“This is no different than a faculty member who’s terminated without notice and the excuse is, ‘Well, we’ve got finals week coming up and we need to get somebody in to teach the last week of classes,'” Florin said. “We ask (that) everybody understands this is unprecedented — that the manner at which this took place is unprecedented.”
Florin said Leavitt should have received a report that included a full description of why he was fired, with enough time to schedule a pre-termination meeting to contest the findings. Leavitt’s termination letter was handed to him Friday, and it only mentions scheduling a post-termination meeting.
“When you deny that, you deny his constitutional right and the last people who should be denying these constitutional rights is a public university,” Florin said.
Attending the meeting for USF were outside attorneys and Provost Ralph Wilcox, who took notes and will conduct a report. Wilcox will make a final decision within five business days.
USF issued this statement Wednesday: “USF stands by its report and findings. The post-termination review was part of Mr. Leavitt’s contract. The review was conducted by Ralph Wilcox, the University’s provost. He will issue his decision within five days.”
Leavitt, speaking again for the first time since he announced at a press conference Monday that he would fight for his job, again denied the findings of a USF investigation that revealed he grabbed walk-on Joel Miller by the throat and struck him twice in the face during halftime of a game against Louisville on Nov. 21.
Investigators interviewed 29 people in the report, which found that Leavitt lied and tried to interfere with the investigation.
The Miller family’s attorney, Barry Cohen, who said Leavitt did hit Miller, will hold a press conference today at 10:45 a.m. to discuss the incident, though an assistant in his office told The Oracle they couldn’t be more specific.
Miller initially denied Leavitt hit him, but Cohen has said since that his client was merely trying to protect Leavitt’s job.
Leavitt’s attorneys said they requested the tapes, interviews and access to the people in the investigation, but the University “flatly denied” this.
“I’ve never been through anything like this, so I don’t know what happens from day-to-day,” Leavitt said Wednesday. “I know I love this area. I love my players. I know that’s important to me. There’s not a better job in the country.”
Leavitt, who was entering the third year of a seven-year, $12.6 million contract, said he’s not trying to reach a monetary settlement. Leavitt was fired with cause, meaning he would only be paid one month’s base salary, or $66,667. He was scheduled to make $800,000 this year. Had he been fired without cause, he would have been paid 75 percent of his remaining contract, or $7.1 million.
USF’s athletics department is still trying to find a replacement, with East Carolina coach Skip Holtz showing interest and having contact about the job at the national coaches’ convention.
On Wednesday, however, he posted this on his Twitter: “Returned from AFCA Conv last night. Back at work today. First week of class for players … Getting ready for winter workouts next Tues.”
USF interviewed Tampa Bay Buccaneers pro personnel director Doug Williams on Tuesday in Orlando, according to the St. Petersburg Times, which did not cite a source.
Other potential candidates include former Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Stockstill, Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant Rich Bisaccia and former USF assistants Dan McCarney, now with Florida, and Calvin Magee, now Michigan offensive coordinator.