NCF Nation: Jim Leavitt

Today, we begin a weeklong series looking at college coaching -- from the longest-tenured head coaches, to the best jobs, to up-and-coming assistants.

First up is a look at the all-time winningest coaches at each Big East school, and whether each program has been defined by its most successful coach. It is no secret that the Big East has had a difficult time retaining high-profile, winning coaches in recent years. It also is no secret that coaches rarely stay in one place for more than 10 years no matter which conference they're in. In fact, there are only 13 coaches in all of FBS that have been at their respective schools for 10-plus seasons; none in the Big East after the departure of Greg Schiano.

Simply put, the pressure to win immediately is much greater than it was 50 years ago.

Given these two factors, then, it should not come as much of a shock to find that the winningest coaches at nearly every Big East school come from an earlier era. Only one coached into this decade -- UConn coach Randy Edsall, who went 74-70 from 2000-10 with the Huskies, with one BCS appearance.

[+] EnlargeRandy Edsall
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesRandy Edsall led UConn to a 74-70 record and five bowl game appearances, but left under controversial circumstances.
While his overall record is just above .500, the overall winning percentage for the program is below .500 without him in charge. That includes a 5-7 season under Paul Pasqualoni a season ago. UConn has not been an FBS member for very long, but Edsall was able to direct this team to five bowl games and at least a share of two Big East titles during his tenure.

But the messy and classless way in which he left the school means you are not going to find too many Huskies fans with warm and fuzzy feelings for Edsall, despite his status as the winningest coach in program history.

Perhaps more than any of the other winningest coaches in the Big East, Jim Leavitt essentially defined USF. He built the program from scratch, took it from I-AA to the Big East and went 95-57 from 1997-2009. In the two years since Leavitt was fired, Skip Holtz has gone 13-12.

The only winningest coach on the list with a losing record -- Rick Minter at Cincinnati. He compiled a 53-63-1 record from 1994-03, with one Conference USA championship. The two men who came right after him -- Mark Dantonio and Brian Kelly -- left after only a few years on the job. Butch Jones just won a share of a Big East title in his second year.

Here is a look at each of the all-time winningest coaches across the Big East. Do any of these coaches define your program?

Cincinnati: Rick Minter, 53-63-1, 1994-2003. Four bowl appearances, 2002 C-USA title.

UConn: Randy Edsall, 74-70, 2000-10. Five bowl games, BCS appearance 2010.

Louisville: Frank Camp, 118-95-2, 1946-68. Brought the program back after it was suspended three years because of World War II, went 7-0-1 in 1947.

Pitt: Jock Sutherland, 111-20-12, 1924-38. Won five national championships, four Rose Bowls and selected Eastern football champs seven times.

Rutgers: Frank R. Burns, 78-43-1, 1973-83. Took Rutgers to its first bowl game.

USF: Jim Leavitt, 95-57, 1997-2009. Took Bulls to five bowl games.

Syracuse: Ben Schwartzwalder, 153-91-3, 1949-73. Won Syracuse's only national championship, in 1959.

Temple: Wayne Hardin, 80-52-3, 1970-82. Took Temple to its best ever season, 10-2 in 1979.
New UCLA defensive coordinator Joe Tresey was fired at Cincinnati before the 2009 season, lasted only one year at South Florida and then couldn't get any other job other than with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League last fall.

Ergo: Desperate hire by Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel, right?

Not really. The devil is in the details. As for the numbers from coordinating defenses, Tresey's are solid.

2007 at Cincinnati: The Bearcats led the nation in turnover gained (42) and interceptions (26). They ranked eight in sacks per game (3.23). What about points? They were 13th in the nation: 18.77.

2008 at Cincinnati: The Bearcats ranked 31st nationally in total defense (321.9 yards), 19th in rushing defense (115.0) and 25th in scoring defense (20.1 points). They were ninth in the nation with 2.86 sacks per game. Didn't force as many turnovers, though: Just 22. Of course, that's four more than UCLA forced last year and would have been tied for fourth in the Pac-10 in 2010.

2009 at South Florida: The Bulls ranked 24th nationally in total defense (321.8 yards) and 19th (tied) in scoring defense (19.8 points). They forced 23 turnovers that season.

So what about those details? Well, recall that cryptic "timing issue" that Neuheisel alluded to Tuesday as to why then-Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly, now at Notre Dame, fired Tresey? Well, that's mostly what it was.

Following the 2008 season, Tresey thought he had been hired as Miami's defensive coordinator, so much so that he told Kelly that he was leaving. But then Tresey and Shannon couldn't finalize a deal -- it apparently was over what position Tresey would coach -- and Shannon left Tresey at the altar. That interview, combined with Kelly's desire to switch to a 3-4 from Tresey's 4-3, drove a wedge into the relationship, and Kelly then made plans to move on with Bob Diaco, who's now with Kelly at Notre Dame. So Tresey was out of a job.

It's meaningful then that Tresey quickly landed on his feet as the defensive coordinator of a Cincinnati foe in the Big East: South Florida. It's not easy to get a job after national signing day, but Bulls coach Jim Leavitt wanted Tresey.

So why did Tresey last just one year at South Florida? Wasn't his fault. Leavitt was fired in January of 2009 after a school investigation concluded he grabbed one of his players by the throat, slapped him in the face and then lied about it.

Incoming coach Skip Holtz brought in his own guy to coach the Bulls' defense: Mark Snyder. So, in mid-January, Tresey was out of work, though he was a good soldier for the Bulls until he got pink-slipped, which Holtz even acknowledged.

That is how he ended up coaching in the UFL.

Is Tresey a spectacular hire? No. Bruins fans would have been more juiced to get Vic Fangio or Rocky Long, Neuheisel's first two choices.

But considering how the nearly two-month search played out in the media -- it didn't seem pretty, did it? -- Neuheisel landed a solid, experienced candidate who figures to bring an attacking, aggressive scheme, which the Bruins didn't have last fall.

And, by the way, it's not like Neuheisel isn't invested in this decision. He's fully aware that 2011 is a win-or-else season for him in Westwood.

Some more stories on the Tresey hire here and here and here.

UCLA finds a defensive coordinator

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A lot of names have been attached to the UCLA vacancy at defensive coordinator, but the guy Rick Neuheisel tapped on Tuesday was not one of those names.

Joe Tresey, 52, a former defensive coordinator at Cincinnati and South Florida, has been named UCLA's defensive coordinator, ending a lengthy and winding search since Chuck Bullough was fired on Dec. 18.

“He has an aggressive style that forces turnovers and negative-yardage plays and I feel our players, especially our youngsters, will benefit greatly from his style of play," Neuheisel said in a statement. "He is a fine teacher and I can’t wait for him to get started.”

Tresey coached at South Florida in 2009 and Cincinnati -- under current Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly -- from 2007-08. Last year, he was the defensive backs coach for the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League. (Recall that Bulls coach Jim Leavitt was fired in January 2010 after a school investigation concluded he grabbed one of his players by the throat, slapped him in the face and then lied about it.)

In 2009, South Florida ranked 24th nationally in total defense (321.8 yards) and 19th in scoring defense (19.8 points) while compiling an 8-5 record. The Bulls forced 23 turnovers that season. In 2008, Cincinnati ranked 31st nationally in total defense (321.9 yards), 19th in rushing defense (115.0) and 25th in scoring defense (20.1 points).

Tresey is a secondary specialist "with a reputation for forcing turnovers and piling up sacks."

But also consider this paragraph from a Tampa Tribune story on Tresey's hire at South Florida: "Tresey was fired last month by Bearcats coach Brian Kelly, who said he had philosophical differences and was shifting to a 3-4 defense, but the move could have also been prompted by Tresey's talks with Miami."

Recall that one of the reasons Neuheisel dispatched Bullough was a desire to switch to a 3-4 scheme. Tresey is a 4-3 guy.

Here's a Q&A with Tresey, also from the Tampa Tribune.

A 1982 graduate of Ohio State, he also has coached at Central Michigan (2006), Georgia Southern (2004-05), Akron (2002-03) and VMI (1999-2001).

Before Neuheisel tapped Tresey, a multitude of coaches were touted as potential candidates, including Vic Fangio, Randy Shannon, Rocky Long, Chuck Heater, Teryl Austin, Rocky Seto, Jeff FitzGerald and Steve Brown.
Almost a year to the day he was fired by South Florida, former Bulls coach Jim Leavitt and the school reached a settlement for $2.75 million on Tuesday night.

It's a hefty price tag, but Leavitt had been seeking to regain nearly $7 million that was left on his contract. He and his attorneys had planned a long, protracted fight that would have had Leavitt and the school air a lot of grievances in a public setting, which wouldn't have left either party looking good.

Now everybody can move on. The Bulls just completed a promising eight-win season under new coach Skip Holtz. Leavitt, who's been in coaching exile for a year, might now look less toxic to potential employees. Heck, even Joel Miller -- the player Leavitt was accused of grabbing at halftime of a 2009 game -- has moved on and played a key role in the team's win over Miami in November.

It's sad that things had to end this way between Leavitt and the program he built from scratch. But at least now this episode can be put to rest.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Skip Holtz has finally emptied the moving boxes in his office.

Now he has to find some time to actually organize the contents of those cardboard carriers instead of just throwing old playbook binders on whatever shelf space was available. Framed pictures still sit on the floor, leaning against walls and bookcases. And those boxes? They're empty, but they haven't managed to leave the office yet.


J. Meric/Getty ImagesNew South Florida coach Skip Holtz has gone out of his way to accommodate both players and media alike since arriving in Tampa.
Interior decorating must wait for Holtz, who hasn't had many spare minutes since being named South Florida's second-ever head coach Jan. 14. He had to quickly assemble and retain a recruiting class, charm the local media and boosters and learn something about the guys he'd be coaching. Spring practice is now in full swing.

So unpacking remains a low priority. But Holtz has already handled perhaps the toughest transition he'll face.

The former East Carolina coach arrived in Tampa amid a cloud of controversy, taking the job a week after the school fired Jim Leavitt following an investigation into accusations he grabbed and choked walk-on Joel Miller at halftime of a late-season game. Several players were interviewed for the university's report into the incident, with some supporting Leavitt's side and others saying he did assault Miller.

Add in the fact that Leavitt was the only coach South Florida has ever known, and the potential for a divided locker room or for players to resist a new coach seemed ripe.

It's telling, then, that no players have left or transferred since Holtz took over. The attitude around the team and the entire South Florida community appears to be one of unison and enthusiasm.

"Change is different for everybody," Holtz says. "Some people are comfortable with change and some are not. But I don't feel like we had anybody here who didn't want to get on board because of everything that transpired here."

To be sure, the team played a large role in that. Quarterback B.J. Daniels said the players held several closed-door meetings before Holtz was hired, where they talked about staying together no matter who the next coach would be.

Still, Holtz knew the players would be anxious to hear from him, which is why he told athletic director Doug Woolard that he needed to address team as soon as possible after the hiring. Woolard acknowledges that "it was probably not an easy thing" for Holtz to do, and Holtz offered no easy solutions.

"I didn't have any, 'Hey, everything is going to be OK' type of talk with them," Holtz said. "It was all about where we're going. I told them, 'We've got two choices. We can be negative and mope, groan, gripe and complain. Or we can look forward, be positive, upbeat and energetic and make some decisions to be good.'"

After that, Holtz had to hit the road for recruiting. But during the week of signing day, he set aside 10 minutes to meet with each player individually over the course of three days. The players appreciated that personal touch.

"He has an open-door policy, and the way he talks to you makes you feel better as a person," running back Mo Plancher said.

Woolard says he didn't go looking for someone with great PR skills to replace Leavitt, who often acted like he who was late for a flight during his media sessions. But Woolard could have scarcely found someone better at changing the conversation than Holtz. He is, after all, the son of Lou Holtz, one of the best motivational speakers in coaching history. And his first job in coaching came under another great communicator, Florida State's Bobby Bowden.

Holtz's people skills have been on display ever since he came to Tampa. He has filled his schedule with nearly nonstop appearances in the community. Every day the Bulls practice, he blocks out an hour in his office for any reporter who wants to come by and chat, in addition to talking after practice. South Florida has marketed his personality, with billboards around town featuring his picture and the slogan, "a Holtz new era."

Ultimately, though, his popularity will stem from how much he wins on the field, not whether he wins the news conferences. It's not lost on the Bulls that Holtz is coming off two straight Conference USA championships, while South Florida has never lost fewer than three league games in a season.

"We want to get over the hump we've been stuck on the last couple of years," senior defensive end Craig Marshall said. "We're ready to try whoever can get us there."

This could be the perfect marriage of coach and opportunity. At his last two stops, Connecticut and East Carolina, Holtz says people had to work to find Storrs and Greenville. Prospects and coaches routinely drop by South Florida, which is located in one of the most fertile recruiting areas in the country. The school is in a major media market, boasts a rapidly growing alumni base and has facility upgrades on the way.

"We feel like this is a place that's ready to explode, if we do a good job recruiting and coaching and teaching," defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said.

It's up to the second coach in Bulls history to build on what the first one established. Holtz has not spoken to Leavitt since taking the job because of the continuing controversy (Leavitt has filed a lawsuit against the school). He often says he hates the situation that led him to South Florida, but he loves the fact that he's there.

Imagine how comfortable he'll feel when his office is organized.

Leavitt's lawsuit was inevitable

March, 15, 2010
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It rates as no surprise that Jim Leavitt is suing South Florida in an effort to recover the millions of dollars that were left on his contract.

The school had to know this was coming when it decided to fire the only coach it ever had on Jan. 8. The Bulls terminated Leavitt's deal with cause because of the allegations that he slapped walk-on player Joel Miller, thereby allowing school officials to avoid paying him for the five years left on his contract.

But of course Leavitt was going to turn to the court system to try to recoup that money. Just as Mike Leach did at Texas Tech. Just as Billy Gillispie did when he was fired as basketball coach at Kentucky. Who would leave that kind of money on the table without a fight?

The interesting thing now will be to see if South Florida decides to contest this in court or merely ponies up for a settlement with Leavitt. If the lawsuit makes it to open court, the whole Miller investigation will once again come under scrutiny.

Both sides would likely try to paint a pattern of behavior by Leavitt on both sides of the fence. That could be uncomfortable for all parties involved, and don't forget that Miller is still a member of the team, as are several witnesses quoted in the initial investigation.

None of this is really something USF wants, as the school would much prefer to move on under new coach Skip Holtz. But it also inevitable in a situation like this.

Enthusiastic intro for Holtz

January, 15, 2010
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The introductory "news conference" for Skip Holtz at South Florida stretched the definition of that phrase.

Holtz was greeted by a large, enthusiastic crowd of boosters, the pep band, cheerleaders and students, some of whom had painted their chests in a sign of support. (And it helps to have Florida weather for an outdoor event like this in January). You can watch the whole thing here.

Holtz, for his part, returned the enthusiasm. He talked about how he accepted the job "about three seconds" after South Florida offered it to him. He said he'd been watching the Bulls from afar and was convinced the program could do great things.

"We can win the conference championship here," he said. "We can win the national championship here."

As you might imagine, that line went over pretty well with the crowd.

What I find interesting is that, although the Jim Leavitt era ended in ugly fashion, South Florida fans seem extremely happy with the result. I sense a real excitement about Holtz, whether it be because of his last name or his record at East Carolina, that wasn't necessarily there with Leavitt. South Florida backers believe he's the guy to get them to the next level, a place Leavitt couldn't reach.

We'll find out soon enough if all that enthusiasm is warranted.
Didn't it seem like Skip Holtz was destined to coach in the Big East?

Holtz began his career as a head coach at Connecticut before the Huskies moved up to the FBS level. He was mentioned this year as a possible candidate to succeed Brian Kelly at Cincinnati, or for going back to UConn if Randy Edsall took another job. And now Holtz enters the league as the new coach at South Florida.

The end of Jim Leavitt's 14-year reign as the only man ever to lead the Bulls was both ugly and in many ways sad. But now is a time to move forward, and Holtz appears to be the perfect guy to make that happen.

South Florida gets a proven winner -- he guided UConn to Top 25 appearances and led East Carolina to back-to-back Conference USA championships -- and did not have to gamble on a coordinator or assistant. Holtz was known as an offensive guy earlier in his career and spent most of his time on that side of the ball as an assistant, but lately his East Carolina teams have been known for fielding tough defenses as well.

He knows Florida -- his parents live in Orlando and his wife is from Port Charlotte, and he served as a graduate assistant at Florida State. He just has to prove he can recruit the state and win a few battles against Miami, Florida and those Seminoles.

And Holtz should be able to quickly bring the Bulls' community back together. He has instant name recognition thanks not only to his own accomplishments but also because of his father, current ESPN commentator Lou Holtz. If Skip has even half of Lou's speaking and motivational ability, he'll be a big hit in Tampa, especially while succeeding Leavitt, who often had nothing but disdain for media and public appearances. Holtz brings none of the baggage that a Mike Leach or a Phil Fulmer would have offered.

While Holtz has never been a head coach in a BCS conference, he is sitting on a potential goldmine at South Florida with all of its easy access to some of the nation's most coveted high school talent. He should be a much more steadying influence than Leavitt, whose teams seemed to rise and fall on emotion. Holtz has the tools and the resources to compete for a Big East title right away.

It seems like that has been his destiny for some time.

Miller demands apology from Leavitt

January, 14, 2010
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Reports are coming out that East Carolina coach Skip Holtz has called a team meeting at the top of the hour and is expected to accept the South Florida job. As that develops, the continuing drama around the Bulls program took another turn today as Joel Miller demanded through his attorneys that Jim Leavitt apologize for slapping him -- or else Leavitt may be slapped with a lawsuit.

You can watch the video of attorney Barry Cohen's news conference here.

"It's time to stand up now, coach, and do the right thing," Cohen said, "because if you don't, Steve Romine [Cohen's legal partner] and I might not know much about football, but we know a lot about hardball."

Miller told the assembled media that he changed his story after the initial report of his allegation in order to try and protect Leavitt. Miller also told school investigators that Leavitt did not strike him.

"I'm here to tell you the truth about what really happened," Miller said. "He grabbed me by the neck and he hit me twice."

Leavitt, through his attorney, told the St. Petersburg Times that he has no intention of apologizing to Miller.

As the Bulls turn

January, 14, 2010
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The South Florida/Jim Leavitt soap opera continues.

Today, the attorney for walk-on Joel Miller -- whose original accusation that Leavitt slapped him at halftime of the Nov. 21 Louisville game led to the coach's dismissal -- will hold a news conference. About what, we're not quite sure. Miller's family could be pursuing a civil action against Leavitt or the school.

Meanwhile, Leavitt had his post-termination hearing on Wednesday in which he pleaded to get his job back. In the least shocking development ever, South Florida has not reinstated him.

And what about the coaching search? It still looks like East Carolina's Skip Holtz is the front-runner. Greg Auman reports in the St. Petersburg Times that the Bulls have interviewed Doug Williams, the former Super Bowl winning quarterback and ex-Grambling coach.

Another interesting name to watch may be Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. He was the Philadelphia Eagles' playcaller before going to the Hurricanes and was head coach at UMass before that.
1. Cincinnati wasn't a national championship-caliber team: At least not without Brian Kelly as head coach. The Bearcats went 12-0, finished No. 3 in the final BCS standings and certainly had a claim to be playing for the title. But they looked overmatched athletically and schematically by Florida in a 51-24 Allstate Sugar Bowl loss. We'll never know what difference having Kelly remain as coach would have made, but the Bearcats did not answer the bell in the postseason.

2. Regular-season momentum doesn't necessarily carry over: Pitt lost its final two regular-season games in heartbreaking fashion, but rebounded to beat North Carolina in a road environment in a close game. West Virginia was on a high at the end of the year, beating Pitt and Rutgers to secure the Gator Bowl bid. But the Mountaineers lost to a 6-6 Florida State team riding its own wave of emotion. South Florida lost its last two regular-season games, had the Jim Leavitt controversy swirling but still won the International Bowl going away. Just goes to show that the postseason is unpredictable.

3. The league needs stronger competition at the bottom: Credit the Big East for winning the games it should win. But playing also-rans from the MAC and Conference USA doesn't excite anybody. For the second straight year, a Big East team blew out the C-USA opponent in the St. Petersburg Bowl, while the conference improved to 4-0 against the MAC in the International Bowl. The Big East needs more prestigious opponents in its lower-tier bowls; having the new Yankee Bowl replace the International Bowl next year with a Big 12 affiliation -- albeit a bottom-of-the-barrel Big 12 team -- is a step in the right direction.

4. UConn is on an uptick: Nobody had a better bowl season in the Big East than Connecticut, which dominated Steve Spurrier's South Carolina team in a 20-7 Papajohns.com Bowl triumph. That made it three straight wins to end the year for a team that was in every single game it played this year. With the majority of the two-deep returning next season, the Huskies have to be considered among the favorites to win the league in 2010 and should garner serious Top 25 consideration.

5. The future is bright for the Big East: Just take a look at my all-bowl team, which includes five freshmen and four sophomores. And that's not counting freshmen quarterbacks B.J. Daniels and Geno Smith, who played for South Florida and West Virginia in their bowl games, or several other promising youngsters around the league. The Big East will return a lot of young talent that gained valuable experience in 2009 and in the postseason. The fight for 2010 bowl spots should be highly competitive and fun to follow.
The strange times at South Florida continue.

Ex-coach Jim Leavitt held a news conference with his attorneys today in which he proclaimed his innocence in the Joel Miller choking/slapping incident while vowing to fight to get his job back.

"Why shouldnt I?" he said. "I'm going to fight for it, y'all. I know what's right. I know what's right in my heart, and I'm not going to back down because I know what I'm saying is right."

You can watch video of the entire press conference here.

Leavitt wouldn't discuss the incident with Miller or his actions in the subsequent investigation except to say that the "allegations are misreported."

"I've said that from day one, and I don't care how long it takes," he said. "I'm in this for my life."

Leavitt's lawyers argued that he wasn't allowed a "pre-termination" meeting to argue his case and that his "post-termination" meeting was scheduled this afternoon with little notice, giving Leavitt inadequate time to gather evidence to support his claims. Of course, Leavitt was interviewed during the school's investigation, and the report found that his statements weren't corroborated by other witnesses. That report criticized Leavitt for lying and interfering with the investigation, perhaps even threatening witnesses. But Leavitt said he wouldn't do anything differently if he had it to do over again.

Leavitt talked about how he built the team from the ground up since 1995 and how much he loved all his players. He said he nearly broke down when a player texted him over the weekend, asking how he could play for another coach.

Leavitt spoke about how South Florida was the best job for him. He did not, however, make a strong case for why he's still the best man for the job.

We've seen coaches fight terminations with lawsuits, but I can't recall too many times where the coach passionately argued to have his job back.

There is no way, though, that Leavitt regains his position. Can you imagine the circus surrounding the program if he were somehow reinstated? This is more about trying to restore his reputation and recoup some of the lost salary from his contract.

This obviously is not what the Bulls need right now with signing day less than a month away. It would be best for all parties involved if South Florida can hire a new coach quickly and start to move forward.

video

Over the years, I've had several Big East coaches and administrators point to South Florida as the sleeping giant of the league.

They knew that if the Bulls got everything going, that program could turn into a dominant force in the conference. That's saying a lot for a school that didn't even field a football team until 1997, but South Florida has many advantages.

The No. 1 advantage, of course, is easy access to the gold mine that is Florida high school football talent. Bulls coaches rarely had to leave the state or even spend much time on airplanes in recruiting. Jim Leavitt's rosters usually were made up of about 95 percent Floridians, with the occasional player from Georgia or somewhere else mixed in. Everybody wants to recruit Florida; the Bulls are right in the heart of that talent pipeline in Tampa.

Leavitt's recruiting began to really gain steam recently as well. He pried defensive end Ryne Giddins away from Florida and others, like receiver Sterling Griffin, out of the clutches of Miami. The administration allowed Leavitt to mine the junior college route as well, and he plucked gems like Kion Wilson and Jason Pierre-Paul out of those ranks.

South Florida may never consistently outrecruit Florida, Florida State and Miami, but as one of only four BCS conference schools in the state, it has plenty of drawing power. And just winning a few of those battles, augmented by other outstanding local high school players, is enough to make the Bulls highly competitive in the Big East year in and year out.

The university is trying to shake free of its image as a commuter school, and the facilities aren't up to par with some of the Bulls' Big East counterparts. The team has no indoor practice facility, for instance, and has had to either cancel workouts or go inside the Sun Dome -- the school's basketball arena -- during big storms, which of course are commonplace in Florida. With little history and tradition to draw upon, the program lacks the well-heeled booster presence of other schools on its level.

But the Tampa location is enticing for recruits, as is the chance to play in Raymond James Stadium. The Bulls play in a large metropolitan area that loves football and will support a winner, as evidenced by the huge crowds for games against West Virginia, Cincinnati and Miami recently.

There will probably be a lot of piling on Leavitt in the coming hours and days. But let's pause here to applaud the job he did of bringing the program from nothing to this point. Whatever you think of the guy, he worked tirelessly and pulled off some stunning wins, including victories at Auburn and Florida State. He guided the Bulls to top-10 rankings in 2007 and 2008, peaking at No. 2 two years ago. He gave legitimacy to the idea that Florida would have a Big Four.

The next guy, if the Bulls make the right hire, could make things even better.
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.

What's next for South Florida?

January, 8, 2010
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South Florida has called a 12:30 p.m. news conference in which the school will officially announce that Jim Leavitt has been fired. The results of the investigation into allegations of abuse by Leavitt against walk-on player Joel Miller will be made public just before the news conference.

While we wait for that, let's take a quick look at where the Bulls might turn next.

South Florida has a few challenges in hiring its next coach.

As a young program with little history, it doesn't have much of a coaching tree to call upon. There aren't a ton of former Bulls assistants or players out there in the coaching field. It's also already Jan. 8, giving South Florida a late entry into the coaching market. With signing day fast approaching, the school needs to act fast if it wants to hold this year's class together.

And as we've mentioned, this isn't an athletic department with unlimited resources, so throwing $2 million at a proven coach isn't going to happen. The perfect guy for this job might have been Charlie Strong, who was Florida's defensive coordinator before taking the Louisville job. But the Bulls were obviously too late to make that move.

So who are some realistic candidates? Here's a quick look at three names that will be prominently mentioned early in the process:
  • Calvin Magee: The Michigan offensive coordinator/associate head coach has some connections that other candidates can't match. He has a graduate degree from South Florida and was a Bulls assistant from 1996-2000. He also spent seven seasons at West Virginia as an assistant, so he knows the Big East intimately well. As Rich Rodriguez's offensive coordinator, he has a strong background and should bring an exciting style of play.
  • Dan McCarney: McCarney has an impressive résumé that includes head coaching experience -- he was the Iowa State coach from 1995-2006 -- and time in Tampa. He spent 2007 as USF's defensive line coach and has been credited with turning George Selvie into a star. He is now the assistant head coach/defensive line coach at Florida, so he knows the Bulls' recruiting ground well.
  • Tommy Tuberville: The former Auburn coach has been mentioned with just about every opening the past few weeks and has made no secret of his desire to get back into the game. He obviously knows how to recruit Florida from his time in the SEC, where he was incredibly successful. And the affable Tuberville would bring a completely different personality to USF than the sometimes standoffish Leavitt.

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