TAMPA (AP) - South Florida fired football coach Jim Leavitt after a school investigation concluded he grabbed one of his players by the throat, slapped him in the face and then lied about it.
A letter hand delivered to the coach and released along with a report on the three-week probe said the university's findings were based on "independently corroborated statements of persons found to be in the best position to observe your conduct."
"Coach Leavitt committed a serious violation of our standards of conduct regarding treatment of students," university president Judy Genshaft said Friday, adding a national search for a replacement will be begin immediately.
Reached by telephone, the only coach in the program's 13-year history told The AP he was "disappointed" and the allegation was "absolutely false."
Leavitt told investigators he has never struck a player and that he was trying to lift the spirits of a player who was "down" when he grabbed the player's shoulder pads during halftime of a game against Louisville on Nov. 21.
Leavitt, who was 95-57, just completed the second season of a seven-year, $12.6 million contract.