Jim Leavitt fired: Is the era of the coach-king over?
South Florida football coach Jim Leavitt, fired Friday for allegedly slapping a player at a November game, is the third coach to lose his job in six weeks over player mistreatment charges.
Everybody in the huddle: The era of the coach-king is over.Skip to next paragraph
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The firing Friday of South Florida coach Jim Leavitt over reports that he throttled and slapped a player makes three coaches in fewer than six weeks who have either quit or been fired for abusiveness in their quest to bring out the best in amateur athletes. University of Kansas coach Mark Mangino resigned in early December after allegations of physical and psychological mistreatment of players. Last week, Mike Leach, head coach of Texas Tech, was fired ostensibly for ordering a concussed player to sit in a darkened equipment garage.
The rapid-fire ousters of some of college football's most winning coaches have made college athletics the latest bellwether over the direction of American sports culture. Certainly, coaches are watched more closely than they ever have been, and players feel confident enough to speak out about perceived maltreatment, which was not necessarily true in the past. A coach's words and actions are subject to challenge – an improvement when it uncovers abusive coaches but a possible demerit when it come to a coach's ability to keep discipline among players.
“The trend in youth sports is looking for coaches who have a kinder and gentler approach rather than the Bobby Knight throwing-chairs approach, so that mind-set may be filtering up to college athletics as well,” says Patrick Cohn, an Orlando, Fla., sports psychologist and author of the “The Ultimate Sports Parent.” “It sounds like some of these coaches are definitely crossing the line and holding grudges against athletes. The message the schools and the NCAA are sending is: We’re not going to tolerate this, no matter what type of program the coach built.”
A month-long investigation
All three coaches were felled by complaints from players and parents. When a second player corroborated a teammate’s allegation that Leavitt throttled player Joel Miller and struck him in the face twice on the sidelines during a Nov. 21 game against Louisiville, a month-long investigation led to Friday’s firing.
The investigation found that Leavitt "inappropriately grabbed the throat and slapped the face of a student athlete" and that his denials were "consistently uncorroborated by credible witnesses ... [and] contradicted by a number of credible witneses,” according to FanHouse, an online sports news site that broke the story.