Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Let. It. Go.

On yesterday the recently fired Jim Leavitt called a press conference to announce that he was going to sue USF for his job back. I listened to the press conference several times on this youtube clip as I missed it real time, and the whole time I was unconsciously shaking my head. I don't know what is motivating Leavitt to take this course of action but I know what my advice would be to him.

Let it go.

I have thought about this situation over and over and I can't come up with a way that this will turn out well for him. I appreciate his passion and attachment to the USF football team. He really and truly did literally build it up from nothing. He did some phenomenal things during his tenure, taking a team that didn't exist first to the mid level Conference USA and then on from there to the BCS conference Big East all in a span of less than 15 years. Also during that time the team has spawned quite a few NFL players and two years ago they had their very first 1st round pick in Mike Jenkins, a guy who is playing quite well in the playoffs right now for the Dallas Cowboys.

There is much for Leavitt to be back on and be proud of, of this there can be no doubt. But he is about to run the risk of ruining all those good memories by fighting a fight he can't win. I don't know if he hit Joel Miller or not for sure and only the people who were there really do. But I do know that the report USF released last week was as damning as you can get. And it has only gotten worse since that time as Miller has hired his own attorney and is now back to saying Leavitt DID hit him and that he only changed his story to cover for his coach. That means however Leavitt planned on proving his innocence just got about 1000 times harder.

Dude, its time to let it go!

Now the one thing that was amazing to me most about the press conference yesterday was how weak the questions were from the assembled media. It seemed like all they wanted to do was reask the same question over and over. "Did you hit Joel Miller" was repeated in about twenty different ways. For me the answer Leavitt was going to give to that question had to be obvious going in. If he was going to say he actually hit Miller would he have really been calling a presser in the first place? And the thing of it is USF released the findings of their investigation to the public last week. There were plenty of facts spelled out in that report that supported the university's decision to cut ties with Leavitt and move on. So when given the opportunity to get Leavitt's side, why didn't anybody in the audience bring them up? Here let me give you a few of the nuggets I found in the report last week that I felt were note worthy.

Coach Franks confirmed to the reviewers that he spoke to Student Athlete A, after he first heard rumors that something had happened in the locker room at the Louisville game halftime. He had not been in the locker room on the 21st. His awareness came on the Monday after the game. He told the reviewers that the other players had been "ribbing" Student Athlete A since the November 21st game. Additionally Franks thought that Student Athlete A was "different, just different".


He recalls that in his regular call to Student Athlete A's parents following the Louisville game, the parents told Coach Franks that they were "concerned" about what had happened in the locker room.

What you have here is two instances that would lead you to believe that at least SOMETHING out of the ordinary happened at halftime of the Louisville game. First Miller's teammates were "ribbing" him afterwards. Why exactly were they ribbing him if nothing serious happened? Secondly his parents expressed their concern to Coach Franks. What were they concerned about if nothing serious happened? And remember, this is information coming from a coach who has been at USF for many years. You can't try to paint him as a player just disgruntled over a lack of playing time like some of the others in the report have been portrayed.

Head strength coach Ron McKeefery was interviewed. Coach McKeefery indicated that he was in the locker room, watching the clock for Coach Leavitt and the team, informing them of the time remaining in the half. In that capacity, he was standing approximately three feet behind and slightly to the left of Leavitt. He saw Student Athlete A was not responding nor making eye contact with Leavitt. Student Athlete A had in fact made two mistakes on special teams. Leavitt grabbed Student Athlete A's chin and spoke to him saying, "You're a good Student Athlete." Leavitt left then returned to Student Athlete A. He popped Student Athlete A's shoulder pads twice and grabbed his jersey.

Now Coach McKeefery went on to say Leavitt didn't slap Miller, but the damage, in my opinion, was already done in his testimony. He admits Leavitt grabbed the kid's chin. Leavitt says he didn't touch the kid's face at all. He also admits Leavitt hit the kid twice, albeit he says it was the shoulder pads. Leavitt says he didn't hit the kid at all. The stories are just too divergent, and remember this is another coach, another grown up making these assertions. This isn't a player who may have had an axe to grind.

Those are the two glaring parts of the report that stood out for me because it was two adults adding to the evidence of what happened in the locker room either by a first hand account or with anecdotal facts. But literally there was a mountain of other evidence if not of Leavitt hitting the kid, at least of some kind of cover up. And I won't even get on the story about Leavitt allegedly having personally retaliated against one of his players, Colby Erskin, who had supposedly told investigators that the story reported by Fan House was true.
At this point with Miller's attorney coming out yesterday and saying the situation did in fact happen, what you basically have is a substantial amount of people who saw the incident directly all saying the same thing and Leavitt is now on an island all by himself saying another. And the majority of the people quoted in the report are also people who continue to work at or attend and play football for USF.

And he is going to sue to get his job back?

I have to wonder if Leavitt were challenged on these points yesterday what his responses would have been. And I also wonder if he did a poor job of addressing the stuff in the report if maybe it would have dawned on him that he is in a very precarious situation. Maybe just maybe if he had stumbled over explaining why Coach McKeefery saw him grab Miller's chin he would have realized just how high the deck is stacked against him right now.

But none of those questions were asked, so I guess we will never know.

What I will say is this, somebody close to him that cares should probably be asking those questions directly to him behind the scenes. Because if yesterday's performance is any indications, Leavitt has convinced himself that he has done no wrong. And perhaps he hasn't, for all I know. But what I do know is that should he push the issue, trying to get his job back at some point he is going to have to answer these questions and a whole lot more. I don't think he really wants to do that, especially if he wants to preserve his legacy at USF. No matter how self assured he is of a positive outcome, cooler heads need to intercede. If the people around Leavitt really want what's best for him its time to some advice that he probably won't want to hear.

Let it go.

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