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Jim Leavitt ( 1956 - )  Category ( Sports_Coaches ) [suggest a correction]

No one can argue the fact that Jim Leavitt is a greatest football coach ever at South Florida. Of course, he's also the only football coach the school has ever had, finishing his 11th season in 2009.

Such longevity in the highly competitive world of college football also requires success, however, and Leavitt has put together a 79-47 record in Tampa, just a few miles from his hometown of St. Petersburg.

A star quarterback at Dixie Hollins High School in St. Petersburg, Leavitt went on to play football and baseball at the University of Missouri (winning the Big Eight batting title as a senior with a .386 average.

After a short stint as a graduate assistant at Missouri, Leavitt took a job as defensive coordinator at the University of Dubuque. That school had suffered through 40 straight losing seaons prior to his arrival, but went 8-2-1 and reached the Division III playoffs in Leavitt's first year.

Leavitt's next stop was Morningside College, also in Iowa, where his first team went 6-5, the next two 7-3-1 (after previous 2-9 an d 1-10 disasters). During his five years at Morningside, the team was 44-23.

He began to make a national name for himself under Bill Snyder at Kansas State, where he was a major factor in lifting a defense that had been ranked 93rd in the nationm to No. 1 the next season. This, and his Florida roots, drew the attention of a new program at South Florida, which hired him as its first coach in December of 1996.

After six seasons as a Division 1-AA and Division 1-A independent, USF entered Division 1 with Conference USA in 2003. The Bulls made it to their first bowl game in 2005 and won the Bowl over East Carolina the following year as a representive of the Big East.

Since then, Leavitt's USF teams have been talented but erratic, pulling some surprises (notably an upset oif No. 5 West Virginia in 2007) and losing some games they were expected to win.

After that 2007 victory over West Virginia, the Bulls were ranked second in the nation, then lost their last three games to fall out of the polls altogether.

Leavitt was approached for head coaching jobs at both the University of Alabama and Kansas State, but elected to remain with the program he had built piece-by-piece.

“Shortly after I was hired, I was speaking with Brigham Young coach LaVell Edwards,” recalls Leavitt. “He told me that throughout his years at BYU, he had plenty of opportunities to move on to what some might perceive to be better coaching jobs. But, he told me, ‘I never left, and you know why I didn’t? It’s because this is my home.’

“He told me, ‘Jim, you’ll never want to leave the (USF) job, because you’re going home.’”

There has been some criticism of Leavitt at South Florida, however, primarily because of his Bifg East record (13-14) and his team's prpensity for penalties (USF led the nation in that dubious statistic in 21002 and has ranked in the top 10 every year since).

After the 2009 regular season ended, Leavitt was accused of having grabbed sophomore walk-on defensive back Joel Miller by the throat and hitting him twice in the twice in the lockerroom room. Leavitt later apologized to Miller.

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