For a lot of reasons, this year was unlike any other in the history of USF football. So much so that in order to do a proper season review, you can't just pick up the story in August. Instead, we're going to go all the way back to January 8 and start there.
I still don't feel like revisiting the whole Jim Leavitt episode in great detail. I started this blog a few weeks after it all went down, so I decided not to go back and look at it very closely, both as an editorial decision and as a matter of personal convenience. I guess Ken and Toro decided they'd rather look ahead too, because we've barely talked about it to this point. But we can't avoid it forever, and if I do it once, maybe we won't have to do it again. So here goes.
Leaf by leaf, page by page
Throw this book away
All the sadness, all the rage
Throw this book away
I started seeing rumors of what might happen the night before, when I rolled through the various USF fan sites that existed at the time before heading off to bed. But I still didn't think anything serious was going to happen, basically because I knew that a schmuck was doing the major reporting. This was a guy who on more than one occasion had hand-counted the number of people in the stands at basketball games and happily reported it in his game recaps. This was a guy who once took a stopwatch to one of Leavitt's briefer press conferences, timed it, and soapboxed about it in print. This on top of a myriad of scoops and stories whose accuracy ended up falling somewhere between "truthiness" (see: Gregg Marshall's involvement with the USF basketball job before Stan Heath was hired) and flat-out wrong (see: Jarrid Famous not coming to USF). So you can understand why I wasn't sure anything would go down when USF's internal report was completed and released the next day.
And besides, this investigation had been going on for something like three weeks. Look how fast Texas Tech had kicked Mike Leach to the curb for his own misdeeds, or Mark Mangino at Kansas. They were terminated within days. I mean, certainly the school would have gotten the show on the road already if they were going to fire Leavitt. Every day they waited was one less day they would have to find a suitable replacement. It was January already -- the coaching carousel was slowing down and there wouldn't be many good choices.
Well, obviously that was all wrong.
Here's an evening dark with shame
Throw it on the fire
Here's the time I took the blame
Throw it on the fire
The strange thing for me is that I was least angry about the actual firing. I was mad that the blind squirrel had found a gigantic nut. (It was like Captain Ahab finding Moby-Dick, and of course he reacted about as you would expect. He took a tawdry victory lap on Twitter and sniped at Leavitt and the school for about a week afterwards -- really petty stuff like "shocking. leavitt's press conference won't start til local TV comes back from commercial". I'd be happy to link to those too, if it wasn't extraordinarily hard to find tweets that old, and that's assuming they haven't been deleted. He published the unredacted investigator's report from USF* on his employer's Web site -- obviously not available anymore -- left it up there for several hours, and then wrote a disgusting "exclusive" follow-up story that served no purpose but to try and throw more dirt on Leavitt. What a goddamn hypocrite. "Here, I'll get justice for you, Joel, because you've been mistreated. But I'll get justice for me too, and meanwhile I'll exploit you as much as I can and pat myself on the back the whole time.") I was mad after talking to some very knowledgable fans, most of whom considered the report to be a rushed, sloppy ends to a means that could be successfully challenged in court and cost the university millions. I was mad that this wasn't a very big deal nationally, just to validate that USF was nowhere near a household name.
* - I mean seriously, how the fuck does this happen? Setting aside how the thing was written, we have a small army of computer people on the USF campus who can teach people how to properly use Adobe Acrobat and redact names or information. You didn't see there were names hanging out there in the open before you sent it out.... after you promised everyone anonymity if they cooperated? You thought just blacking out the names would do the trick when you can just copy and paste the whole thing into Microsoft Word, or even a basic text application, and see everything? Total, complete, 360-degree fail. It was the "Voodoo 5" of document management and in loco parentis. Multiplied by about 100.
And I was mad that there was barely enough time to find a replacement coach, and maybe not enough money to get a good one.
Well, obviously that last part was all wrong too.
I don't know if Skip Holtz has been given his proper due for how he managed to get everyone on board so quickly. Carlton Mitchell was the only player to leave the team voluntarily after Leavitt was dismissed. There wasn't some mass influx of players from jucos or from East Carolina -- only Kevin Gidrey followed Holtz from Greenville, and that was as a graduate transfer. Nearly all of Leavitt's recruiting class stayed committed to the school. There were a couple of high-profile losses, but those might have happened no matter who was coaching. All things considered, the new staff did a fantastic job of pushing forward and getting the players to do the same. Given some of the strong feelings in the locker room for Leavitt, it really could have gone a lot worse, and in retrospect this was Skip's first big win of the season.
Those who say the past is not dead
Stop and smell the smoke
Smoke (Live) by Ben Folds Five (via Sham3d)