Alan Dell

Commentary: Leavitt gets win over USF

South Florida head coach Jim Leavitt, right, and Sam Barrington celebrate following their 17-7 win over Florida State in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009, in Tallahassee, Fla.(AP Photo/Phil Coale)
South Florida head coach Jim Leavitt, right, and Sam Barrington celebrate following their 17-7 win over Florida State in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009, in Tallahassee, Fla.(AP Photo/Phil Coale) AP

In his final four years as a head coach, Jim Leavitt couldn’t defeat Rutgers and Cincinnati, but in the end he got the victory he needed: He beat USF.

There are many ways you can slice up the settlement Leavitt and USF came to this week. However, the $2.75 million the university agreed to pay him gives the coach the freedom he needed.

Exoneration is in the eyes of the beholder and for his purposes enough doubt has been created to release the coach from any culpability -- and really he could not ask for more.

Leavitt doesn’t have to admit he struck Joel Miller or impeded a subsequent investigation, which is the reason USF gave him for firing him and not paying him the $7 million he claimed he was owed.

USF will probably look at this as a $2.75 million headache that was worth every penny to get rid of.

The administration surely didn’t want to go through a lengthy legal battle that would cost a lot more money and reveal some embarrassing details, particularly regarding its investigative skills.

For his part, Leavitt wants to get on the field as early as possible, and there is an enticing opportunity at Kansas State that might not be available if he were still in litigation.

He may hold a master’s in psychology, but coaching football is the only thing Leavitt appears capable of doing, and to have that taken away has been a death sentence of sorts.

The coach got USF to put in a nice kicker when it agreed that $750,000 of the settlement was “acknowledging Coach Leavitt’s contributions to building USF’s nationally respected program.”

He is the clear winner here and there is not a penalty for excessive celebration, though Leavitt might be guilty of such an infraction.

According to the settlement, he does not admit to slapping Miller during halftime of the 2009 Louisville game as the school alleged and did not interfere with its investigation.

He can argue the money USF paid him to go away is an admission it was in the wrong; a nice piece of hush money.

The agreement states neither side is allowed to comment on the matter and that the settlement should not be construed “as an admission by USF or Leavitt of any liability, wrongdoing unlawful conduct whatsoever.”

That’s a touchdown and two-point conversion for Leavitt, who can now claim a “no comment” is required when asked about the incident. For a man who often dodged any question that remotely had the look of a controversy, it’s like receiving a lifetime gift certificate.

Those who know Leavitt will agree he was capable of slapping Miller just as he is equally capable of erasing it from his mind.

He is a man of passion, who was sometimes overwhelmed with his own emotions, once crying during a post game television interview and at times exiting the locker room at halftime with blood streaming down his face after bashing his head on a player’s helmet.

He did do a lot of good things for the USF program taking it from the womb and turning it into a national conversation piece though he couldn’t finish the job, falling out of the top 25 rankings each season.

Kansas State with 71-year-old head coach Bill Snyder offers Leavitt a good second chance.

Leavitt was an assistant under him at K State, and there is speculation he could return there in a similar capacity and eventually replace Snyder with the coach’s blessing.

Before this settlement, most colleges might have been leery of touching Leavitt, but now they have a piece of paper that can be framed into a reprieve if they choose to hire him. And the coach has nearly $3 million to pay the bills (minus legal fees) while he searches for his next job.

Given the circumstances, it couldn’t have ended better for Leavitt, and he didn’t even have Matt Grothe to run his attack.

Miller could file a lawsuit against Leavitt, but he has made it clear he has no such intentions and just wants to move on with his life, which is what this agreement is all about.

If Leavitt does get another job, let’s just hope for his sake that he tones down his halftime rhetoric.

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