We've been hearing this one for a few weeks now and earlier this week it sounded like it was done deal but now it's official, Jim Leavitt is out as head coach at South Florida. The only coach in the history of the program, who grew it up from nothing to a 1-AA team to 1-A Independent to a CUSA team to a Big East team, is out for striking a player in the face. Considering coaches are getting fired just for verbal abuse and locking players in sheds, it probably should have been a foregone conclusion that this was coming.
Reasons aside, it presents a larger question for USF football, and even the Big East. Where do we go from here?
USF has been on the doorstep of making "the leap" for a couple years now. Though they've developed a bit of a reputation for fading down the stretch, they've still achieved some amazing feats under Leavitt. USF is 95-47 all-time, all under Leavitt's watch. He's led them to five-straight bowls games in the last five years, winning three. The Bulls have played in some important, nationally-televised game including this year's match-up with Cincinnati. And they've cultivated a strong recruiting base and lured some top talent into their ranks.
This past season seemed to be the tipping point for the school, as they beat one of The Big Three for first time (Florida State). But another late season fade and a blowout loss to Miami reminded the Bulls, and Leavitt, they still had some climbing to do.
Now? A giant wrench has been thrown in the USF machine. It's late in the coach hiring season so any "quality" candidate is gone (here's some possibilities). The already volatile Florida recruiting game just got a lot shakier as those who committed to play for Leavitt might think twice. If an offer still stands from Miami or FSU, they may think twice.The Bulls will be losing a decent amount of talent, especially now that Jason Pierre-Paul is out.
What really concerns me though is the impact it could have on the Big East. The conference needs elite teams. And it needs them yesterday. USF was moving, slowly but surely, on an upward trajectory to possibly become one under Leavitt. Now? Who knows, but there's going to be more questions than answers going into next season, a season that sees road games against the Miami Hurricanes and Florida Gators waiting for USF. From a football standpoint, USF probably took a couple steps backwards today. Not that I'm condoning what Leavitt did, just looking at the truth of the situation.
The folks over at The Bull Gator and Astrobull will have more on the topic I'm sure and Greg Auman at TampaBay.com has tons of updates. The Big East needs programs like USF to continue growing. Hopefully they choose their new coach well and keep the momentum going. Oh, and, win a game in October for once.