7 People Claim USF Coach Leavitt Hit Player Twice

Brett McMurphy of AOL FANHOUSE reports this afternoon:

Jim Leavitt Accused Of Abusing USF Player Joel Miller (Inset)

(Leavitt also sported bloody face after the game in question)

University of South Florida coach Jim Leavitt grabbed a player by the throat then struck him twice in the face during halftime of the Bulls’ Nov. 21 game with Louisville, the player’s father, his high school coach and five members of USF’s football program told FanHouse.

The player alleged to have been struck by Leavitt was 6-foot, 190-pound walk-on Joel Miller, who plays exclusively on special teams. Miller’s father Paul claims that a first-half mistake by his son is what led Leavitt to allegedly attack his son.

When contacted by reporter McMurphey, Leavitt refused to discuss the alleged incident: “I’ll visit with you about recruiting. All the stuff we do in there [the locker room] … I’ll visit with you about recruiting. Things that happen or don’t happen usually are kept within the team — whether they happen or don’t happen. If you want to talk about recruiting, I’ll talk about recruiting.”

All witnesses who reported the incident to McMurphy requested anonymonity except Joel’s father Paul. Joel refused comment when contacted about the incident.

McMurphy notes that it is not known if “Athletic Director Doug Woolard was aware of the incident that the entire team and staff knew had occurred.”

Jim Leavitt Grabs USF Player's Facemask

(Leavitt’s intensity has been well-chronicled

Paul Miller reports that two days after his soon Joel was allegedly attacked, he confronted Leavitt

“Coach I want to talk to you about what happened,” Joel told Leavitt on Nov. 23.

“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.”

Interestingly though, the day after football coach Mark Mangino resigned from the University of Kansas after being investigated for abusing player, Leavitt apologized to Joel Miller.

On the afternoon of Dec. 3 — nearly two weeks after the incident — Leavitt left cell phone messages wanting to meet Miller. They met in his office where Leavitt apologized, according to what Miller told his father, teammates and staff members. Ironically, Leavitt’s 12-day old apology came one day after Kansas coach Mark Mangino resigned amid an investigation into his treatment of his players, including verbal abuse or having inappropriate physical contact with his players. Leavitt and Mangino were assistants together at Kansas State from 1991-95.

What’s notable about McMurphy’s report is that includes no mention of Leavitt’s bloody appearance after his press conference following the game in which he’s accused of abusing Miller - vs. Louisville on Nov. 21.

I posted a photo of Leavitt after the game and noted this excerpt from the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES:

“He was fired up. He grabbed somebody — I think it was (walk-on linebacker) LaDre Watkins,” senior safety Nate Allen said. “He headbutted him and fell backwards. I couldn’t help but laugh, because that’s the best one I’ve seen. … We were fired up about that one.”

“I just heard about it when I got back to the press box (after) halftime, and they said, ‘Did you see Coach Leavitt,’ ” offensive coordinator Mike Canales said. “I said, ‘Why, what’s wrong with him?’ ‘He’s bloody.’ I thought, ‘Oh, golly, okay.’ … That’s Coach. That’s who he is. You know what you’re getting, and the kids love it.”

Obviously we don’t know if that reported incident, which included on-the-record reaction from a USF player and coach, was related to the alleged incident involving Miller. But it is an interesting coincidence. Especially when you consider that Leavitt’s bloody appearance was widely reported after the Nov. 21 game but when unmentioned in McMurphy’s report today.