Whether it is in search of something to talk about, early holiday wine or faced with watching an atrocious and regressing defense, rumors have been percolating among Kansas State fans that a new defensive coordinator could be coming to town next year.
That defensive coordinator in question is none other than former South Florida head coach Jim Leavitt. The same coach who was ostracized and bloodied by a report that he mistreated a player last season during halftime of a game in the locker room.
For those who don’t know, the report goes something to the tune of this: USF wide receiver and special teams player Joel Miller committed two penalties in the first half of a November game last season against Louisville. An upset Leavitt then proceeded to confront Miller in the locker room and lost his cool, grabbing him by the throat and slapping him in the face three times. Afterwards he then, supposedly, asked other coaches and players to change their stories regarding the incident.
Thus, the circumstances to consider were not just the mistreatment of a player, but the cover-up involved as well and he was dismissed by USF last January.
It isn’t as if the rumor is completely out of left field…or the windy flint hills of central Kansas. Jim Leavitt was a Kansas State assistant from 1990 to 1995—the latter four seasons as the defensive coordinator—when Bill Snyder was building the foundation to and getting over the hump in a complete, dramatic turnaround in Manhattan.
But the idea to mull over isn’t if the rumor has validity, but rather whether or not Leavitt deserves another shot at coaching.
The answer is maybe…under certain circumstances; and Kansas State could be one of those.
Well, for one the Wildcats could benefit. Desperate times call for desperate moves. The Wildcat defense has been awful this year giving up a little less than 440 yards a game and ranking 116th in the nation against the run. His tremendous work in his first go-round at K-State landed him his first head coaching job.
The second, Jim Leavitt needs a job like this one to get back into coaching. It’s not as if a good job will come knocking on his door and the right coach—Bill Snyder in this case—could absorb the hit to his program with minimal damage as subject to his character. Evidently, Leavitt has his priorities straight or Snyder wouldn’t have hired him.
Still, how is a coach supposed to go to a recruit’s house and sit in their living room with the question of mistreatment hovering above his head? University officials and athletic departments do not want questions of abuse of any kind associated with their program.
At 53, Leavitt is also far from a spring chicken, but he unquestionably still has the energy and the passion to start a clean slate somewhere. During his time at K-State many fans even remember before games and practices he used to run laps around the stadium only stopping momentarily to answer quick questions before taking off again.
This is also a man who used to park his car at South Florida’s newly built practice facility and stay past midnight. Not to watch the sunset or gaze at the stars, but to check on and make sure the fence posts around the field stayed perfectly straight.
Take into account this also appears to be an isolated incident with no other signs this was a routine pattern of behavior.
Of course Leavitt would have to express some contrition other than his naïve and repeated “I didn’t do anything.” He’d have to show the utmost interest in the job and not take it for granted. He’d have to show loyalty to the program and find ways to build trust in players.
South Florida has moved on and it isn’t as if Jim Leavitt can’t do the same.
So would I hire Leavitt? Yeah, maybe...if the situation was right.