Friday, January 08, 2010

The Leavitt situation

The story about University of South Florida head football coach Jim Leavitt striking one of his players, Joel Miller, in the face has been out for about three weeks, and now it's starting to boil...everywhere except for USF.
The coach says one thing ("No I didn't") and the author of the story (Brett McMurphy) says another ("Oh yes you did"). I know both guys from having dealt with them in a professional capacity when I worked for the Sun Dome at USF and it's disappointing that their versions of what did or didn't happen are so diametrically opposite, leaving no gray area between. Because with nowhere in the middle for the truth to land, one of them is flat-out lying. And it makes me really sad to say that I think it's Leavitt. Right now, aside from the people who were there, nobody can say they know what happened, including me. But here are three things I do know:
  • Leavitt is extremely emotional. It's very easy to picture him losing control. People who attempt to defend his behavior in general and this incident in particular will try to compare it to the way drill instructors toughen up young Marine recruits, makin' men out of 'em or some such nonsense. Comparisons of sports to war grind my nerves anyway, but this comparison is especially galling. These people were either never in the military or were the worst Marines or soldiers ever and didn't last very long. Because otherwise they'd know that what drill instructors try to instill in their recruits above anything else is discipline, to not lose their cool under pressure. A football coach flipping out and smacking one of his players out of either frustration or an effort to motivate or a combination thereof is the exact opposite of that.
  • It's common knowledge that Leavitt and McMurphy are not each others biggest fans. When McMurphy covered USF for the Tampa Tribune, their relationship was prickly at best and usually downright contentious. If McMurphy saw this story as a chance to stick it to Leavitt, it's not unreasonable to believe he would enjoy doing just that. Although I highly doubt he'd ever be stupid enough to risk his career and reputation on either completely making up a story like this or relying on the accounts of less than reliable sources, which is what would have had to happen to vindicate Leavitt's version.
  • And then there's this quote (from the original story): "Before you say anything," said Leavitt, according to what Miller told others in USF's program and his father, "just know I am the most powerful man in this building." I can TOTALLY picture Leavitt saying that. Mostly because it's TOTALLY true. Yeah, he may report to athletic director Doug Woolard on paper, but Woolard is a paper-pushing figurehead, a suit sitting behind a desk in the building Leavitt's referring to in that quote, which wouldn't exist if not for Leavitt's success building the football program. To say he's Leavitt's boss is an unfunny joke. Put it this way: If Leavitt calls Woolard at 2AM, Woolard knows he'd better pick up. If Woolard calls Leavitt at 2AM, Woolard knows he'd better have a damn good reason.

So, based on the accusations and what little I know about the people involved, I believe coach Leavitt crossed an uncrossable line, for which he needs to be fired. No contract buyout, no leave of absence to undergo counselling, nothing like that. Fired. I might be wrong, and I kind of hope I am, but I don't think so. Coaches can't hit players. Professors can't hit students. People in positions of authority can't hit those under their supervision. Period. I know I'm not wrong about that.

At any rate, Woolard and university president Judy Genshaft need to deviate from the standard USF playbook of dragging their feet, keeping quiet and waiting around long enough for people to forget about it because that isn't going to happen. Instead, they should devote serious effort to resolving this quickly, cleanly and decisively. For a change. Because this is beyond a sports issue now; nothing less than the integrity and principles of the University of South Florida is at stake.


Island Dawg said...

Sounds like you may have something against Leavitt too - check out Jerrell Young's eye witness version in the St Pete Times...

Why, it's Clark! said...

Interpret it however you like, but I stated my opinion and how I formed it. There's two sides to this story and one side is right and the other is wrong. If you feel like there's more credibility from those who support Leavitt's version of what happened, I respect that but I disagree.

Anonymous said...

This is the first time I've seen Jerrell Young's name in the paper and I'll bet the next will be when he's arrested for robbing a liquor store. I certainly hope he doesn't speak for most of the players on that team, since they're supposed to be college students and his grasp of the language indicates he wouldn't be eligible for junior high school. One thug testifying on behalf of another doesn't really challenge the report's credibility.