Leavitt strikes back at USF over firing listen01/11/10 Seán Kinane
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Today, former University of South Florida head football coach Jim Leavitt struck back. He says USF had no justification for firing him Friday because he never choked and slapped a football player at halftime of a game in November. “Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I’ve said that from day one.”
USF also suggests that Leavitt participated in a cover-up or interference with witnesses. But during an emotional six-minute speech to the media this afternoon, Leavitt said he would not talk about what happened during the investigation of the alleged incident. He says he is going to battle hard to remain coach of the football team.
“The allegations are misreported. … I want to coach this football team. This is the greatest job in country. … We have opportunity for a Big East Championship," Leavitt said.
One of Leavitt’s attorneys, Tom Roebig, called USF’s decision to terminate the coach “unwarranted and unreasonable.” Roebig says Leavitt is the only head football coach the university has ever had, and “Friday morning, that was taken from him by the officials at USF. This morning we provided a letter to those officials advising them that the taking of Coach Leavitt’s position is wrong. It’s wrong contractually, it is wrong legally, substantively, procedurally it is wrong. And he should be reinstated to his position as head coach of the USF Bulls.”
Roebig says Leavitt was eligible for a pre-termination meeting with USF. But it never happened because of what the university called emergency circumstances.
“We have learned that the emergency circumstances are recruiting efforts.”
By firing the coach “with cause,” USF will save millions of dollars of compensation Leavitt would have otherwise been entitled to under the multi-year contract extension he signed in 2008. But Leavitt says he just wants to get back to coaching.
“What I want to do right now, I want to go home to my players so bad. I want to put my arm around all of them so bad.”
Meanwhile, the family of the player USF alleges was choked and hit by Leavitt, Joel Miller, has retained attorney Barry Cohen.