Leavitt strikes back at USF over firing listen01/11/10 SeÃ¡n 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. â€œAbsolutely not. Absolutely not. Iâ€™ve said that from day one.â€
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.
â€œThe allegations are misreported. â€¦ I want to coach this football team. This is the greatest job in country. â€¦ We have opportunity for a Big East Championship," Leavitt said.
One of Leavittâ€™s attorneys, Tom Roebig, called USFâ€™s decision to terminate the coach â€œunwarranted and unreasonable.â€ Roebig says Leavitt is the only head football coach the university has ever had, and â€œFriday 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 Leavittâ€™s position is wrong. Itâ€™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.â€
Roebig says Leavitt was eligible for a pre-termination meeting with USF. But it never happened because of what the university called emergency circumstances.
â€œWe have learned that the emergency circumstances are recruiting efforts.â€
By firing the coach â€œwith cause,â€ 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.
â€œWhat 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.â€
Meanwhile, the family of the player USF alleges was choked and hit by Leavitt, Joel Miller, has retained attorney Barry Cohen.