Did USF Coach Leavitt Viciously Punch His Player?Beyond UCF, Football, News — By Staff on December 16, 2009 at 4:51 pm
The firestorm into USF coach Jim Leavitt’s alleged attack on player Joel Miller continues. Tampa Bay area newspaper columnists are demanding a full investigation by USF.
Miller’s brother called into a Tampa Bay radio station and called Coach Leavitt an “A-hole” for how he treated his brother.
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Here’s some video from local Tampa media reacting to the controversy.
ORIGINAL STORY FROM 12/15
The man who coaches UCF’s biggest rival — but refuses to let the two teams play — is now embroiled in a national scandal so severe, one Orlando columnist is calling for USF Coach Jim Leavitt’s firing, if allegations he attacked a player are true.
AOLFanhouse.com dropped the bombshell accusation Monday that Leavitt grabbed a player by his throat and then hit him in his face twice with his hand during the Bulls’ Nov. 21 game with Louisville, according to the player’s father, his high school coach and five members of USF’s football program.
The staff and players, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of being kicked off the team or fired, told Fanhouse Leavitt, upset over a special teams mistake, was pacing around the Raymond James Stadium locker room at halftime when he then walked 10 feet to the locker where sophomore Joel Miller was sitting — without any protection from his helmet — and attacked him.
“You do something like that [on the street], you put them in jail,” the player’s father and former police officer, Paul Miller, told FanHouse. “Somewhere [Leavitt] crossed the line.”
Leavitt, who will make $1.6 million this year, refused to discuss the specific allegations with Fanhouse, saying, “Things that happen or don’t happen usually are kept within the team — whether they happen or don’t happen.”
When Leavitt talked to local Tampa media, he denied the allegations. “I’m appalled at it,” Leavitt told the St. Pete Times. “It’s absolutely not true. It’s so wrong. It’s so far out there. I’m very disappointed something like this would be written.”
USF’S SCANDAL COULD HELP UCF RECRUITING
While the University of South Florida investigates the allegations, some are already saying the scandal could hurt USF’s recruiting — and help UCF’s.
“The Knights and Bulls occassionally go head-to-head for players,” Orlando Sentinel sports reporter Iliana Limón blogged. “If Leavitt did, indeed, punch a player, that’s a tough thing to overcome when trying to sell a program to a recruit and his parents (assuming he hangs on to his job). You can overlook a lot of things, but a coach crossing the line and touching a player isn’t one of them.”
Miller’s high school football coach, David Mitchell of Tampa’s Wharton High School, told Fanhouse he’ll steer his players away form South Florida from now on.
“I would not send a kid where he will be humiliated or mistreated,” Mitchell said. “It [playing for Leavitt] is like knowing someone is considering buying a bad car. You tell them ‘It doesn’t run, it’s no good, don’t buy it.’ If they still decide to, they have to live with that decision. But at least I let them know how bad it was.”
The Knights will travel to the Bulls’ backyard Saturday for a bowl game against Rutgers. A win over that Big East team — which beat USF this season — coupled with UCF’s on campus stadium and facility, could be used to help sway recruits between the rivals.
ADMINISTRATIVE REVIEW: A COVERUP OR EXAGGERATION FROM THE START?
As the fallout from the the Fanhouse report grows, some quoted in the original story, including the player’s father, are now backtracking, raising the question: Is there a coverup, or was this originally blown out of proportion?
Paul Miller told the Times his quote suggesting Leavitt should be jailed for attacking his son was taken out of context. Joel Miller’s high school coach also shied away from the spotlight when contacted by the Times.
“The best thing would be for (Miller) to tell you what went on, instead of me saying, ‘This is what was told to me,’ ” Mitchell told the Times.
Meanwhile, USF administrators aren’t saying much, other than that they have launched a review into the incident.
“The University of South Florida is aware of the story and will review the matter promptly,” said Michael Hoad, USF vice president for communications. “We’re committed to ensuring due process for everyone involved. To ensure fairness, the university doesn’t comment during a review.”
Orlando Sentinel Sports columnist Mike Bianchi called for a “full-scale investigation” so USF could get to the bottom of it.
“These are serious, program-altering charges and should be taken seriously,” he wrote. “There is absolutely no place in college football for coaches who physically abuse their players.
If indeed USF coach Jim Leavitt struck a player in anger, he should become ex-USF coach Jim Leavitt.
Swiftly and immediately.”
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