USF has done the right thing in getting serious about extending the contract of its first, only — and highly successful — football coach Jim Leavitt. The deal, when signed, would be worth $4.3 million over seven years. It would take him through 2009.
Call it a reward for a job well done; no one could have taken a start-up program farther and faster.
Also call it an exercise in enlightened self-interest. Leavitt is an extremely marketable commodity. Don’t forget, he came close to being on the Alabama sideline in USF’s opener this Saturday in Birmingham.
And pay even closer attention to what happens this season in Tallahassee and Gainesville.
If it doesn’t get any better for FSU, Bobby Bowden may decide he doesn’t want to die on the job. And Gator Nation — and by extension Jeremy Foley — won’t tolerate another season like last year’s under Ron Zook. At least one of those head coaching jobs could open up.
As for Leavitt, who genuinely loves his local roots, he makes the short list at both schools — possibly topping one or both. And Florida is still his home state.
And then there’s this. FSU and UF can pay Leavitt more. They also can offer the reality of sell-out crowds, a national limelight and the prospect of something other than a lower level bowl game that’s tied in with the lower-level, non-BCS Conference USA. And both the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Southeastern Conference control their own destinies in this era of grid greed and conference hopping. C-USA doesn’t.
And there’s also this. Leavitt’s buyout remains a mere $50,000.