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Colleges

'Fire Leavitt' chatter gains little support

By GREG AUMANN
Published October 20, 2004

Jim Leavitt can laugh about the way folks have kept a healthy distance from him around the office this week, afraid to say the wrong thing in the wake of USF's 42-35 loss to Army on Saturday.

"It's interesting, when you lose a game like we did, you walk the hallways and nobody wants to look at you, talk to you. It's like you're carrying a disease," Leavitt said Tuesday. "But we're still living, still walking, breathing, all those things. It was a tough loss for us, we all know that."

In the frustration that followed, a smattering of fans in online message boards questioned whether Leavitt's job was safe. It was a surprising reaction about the only coach the Bulls have had, one that was quickly shot down by fans who demonstrated a better understanding of USF's commitment to Leavitt and vice versa.

But if you want an idea of how little support such a decision has right now, visit firejimleavitt.com.

Unlike the infamous site that has campaigned for the ouster of Florida coach Ron Zook, the Leavitt site is simply registered to a squatter who has bought up dozens of similarly named sites, hoping to get one outraged fan or rival to pony up cash for the rights to the domain. The parent site, redshirted.com, actually has a four-tiered price plan of different coaches, each with a "recommended bid" price. Each coach's record is updated each week.

Firebillcallahan.com, building on Nebraska's recent mauling at the hands of Texas Tech, has an asking price of $500, joined in the top tier with firejoegibbs.com and others.

The Leavitt site is at the other end of the spectrum. The asking bid is $50 and still hasn't gotten a bite. That will inevitably change as USF moves up to the Big East and its following and expectations continue to grow.

If anything, being a coach on that list is a strange kind of flattery, suggesting that coaches haven't really arrived on campus until there's someone demanding they leave.

The only other Conference USA coach on the list is TCU's Gary Patterson, who has been to bowl games six years in a row but has struggled to a 3-3 mark that includes a double-overtime loss to USF. Maybe that's why his site will cost you $100.

KEEP AN EYE ON: USF has signed receivers Joe Bain and Johnny Peyton out of Dade City in recent years, and the Bulls are recruiting an intriguing prospect in running back Deran Burns, a basketball standout who is in his first season playing football.

Burns is enough of an athlete that he was an all-state honorable mention in basketball two years ago, playing alongside his good friend Peyton. The Bulls aren't the only school on his trail though, as Florida had assistant Ed Zaunbrecher down for a recent visit as well.

MORE RECRUITING: Chris Howard, the guard from Maryland who has committed to USF, is coming as a point guard and not a two-guard, according to Gerald Moore, his coach on two state championship teams at Fort Washington's Friendly High.

"He's not a floor general, he's the floor president," Moore said. "He only lost two games in two years, and he was involved in every play we had. Even when he wasn't in the game, he was the heart and soul of our team."

USF women's basketball coach Jose Fernandez picked up his second commitment, from Shantia Grace, a guard from Sarasota Riverview who is a two-time first-team all-state selection and arguably is the program's biggest signing yet.

Grace might not be the only all-state talent coming to USF, as LaQwesha "Moe" Gamble, a first-teamer from Winter Haven, visited USF this weekend. Gamble, a 5-foot-11 senior who could play either forward position, will still visit Central Florida and Alabama before making a decision.

NO PROGRESS: Fans hoping to see Brian Fisher back in a Bulls uniform again next fall shouldn't hold their breath. The former USF offensive MVP must resolve an issue of delinquent child support to two Pensacola women before he'll be allowed back into the program. Court records show he hasn't made any payments in the last eight weeks. At his current rate, his total owed will exceed $20,000 next month.

[Last modified October 20, 2004, 00:18:19]


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