Friday, January 8, 2010
Report concludes that Leavitt slapped player
By Brian Bennett
The investigation into allegations that South Florida coach Jim Leavitt grabbed and slapped walk-on player Joel Miller took more than three weeks, comprised 29 interviews and ended with a 33-page report. The investigators concluded that Leavitt did in fact slap Miller, which is the basis of the school's firing of Leavitt today.
"Despite Coach Leavitt and Student Athlete A’s denial that any inappropriate contact had taken place, the reviewers find it more likely that contact did, in fact, occur to the face and throat/neck area of Student Athlete A," the review reads. "This report was substantiated by multiple reports from credible direct eye witnesses whose recollection was corroborated."
You can view the entire USF report here.
There is a lot of conflicting information in the report, not the least of which is Miller's own denials of his original allegations. But the investigators reported that several other players who had the best view of the incident that happened at halftime of the Nov. 21 Louisville game agreed that Miller had been slapped. None of the 20 players interviewed are identified by name in the report.
"Student Athletes B and C had seen the entire event and described it as involving Coach Leavitt grabbing Student Athlete A by the throat with one hand and 'slapping' or 'striking' Student Athlete A’s face with his other hand," the report reads.
The report says another player saw Leavitt put his hand "high" on Miller's jersey, "indicating that it could have been on Student Athlete A’s throat. At this point, Student Athlete D turned his head because he “did not want to ‘catch anything himself’ or see anymore."
Another player said Leavitt "tapped" Miller's face twice "to get his attention," according to the report.
Leavitt has denied all wrongdoing and told investigators that he approached Miller while on his knees. He said Miller appeared down and he asked him what was wrong in an encouraging manner.
But the investigators said no one could corroborate Leavitt's version of events and that every other account had him talking to Miller "in a direct, aggressive, and disturbed fashion." The investigators also found conflicting statements from Leavitt on whether he'd ever shaken a player and whether he'd apologized to Miller. And though he was specifically told not to speak to anyone about the incident or the investigation, the report said Leavitt had talked to Miller during the review. One player told investigators that several on the team feared retaliation from Leavitt.
In athletic director Doug Woolard's letter to Leavitt informing him of the dismissal, he cites the report's findings and says the coach offered conflicting and misleading statements while interfering with the investigation. That, he said, gave the university the right to fire Leavitt with cause.