Colorado defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt is proof that coaches can make the most of second chances. Leavitt helped build the South Florida football program from scratch. In doing so, he led the Bulls to a record of 95-57 from 1997-2009. He was courted by higher profile programs but ultimately decided to remain loyal to the program that had given him his first opportunity as a head coach.
All of that came to end when Leavitt was accused of striking a player in the locker room. This incident resulted in his firing. Much was made of the incident at the time and it was used as justification when some people said he should never coach again.
And for three years after his firing, Leavitt did not coach college football as he spent 2011-2014 as the San Francisco 49ers linebackers coach.
But then Leavitt was given a second chance to coach college football when, in 2015, Colorado head coach Mike Macintyre hired him as his defensive coordinator at Colorado. There may have been a few people who thought it was a questionable hire given what allegedly occurred while Leavitt was at South Florida, but there wasn’t the public outrage that we hear when the possibility of Art Briles coaching again is brought up.
What went on at Baylor and South Florida should not be considered equivalent situations, but the events surrounding the firings of Briles and Leavitt are comparable. Leavitt was accused of punching one of his players while Briles was accused of turning a blind eye to his players sexually assaulting women. Yes, I stand by my assertion that these are comparable but not equivalent situations.
These situations are comparable because each coach allegedly lost control of his program. These situations are not equivalent because Leavitt allegedly lost control of himself and made the decision to allow his actions to become violent. Briles, though, lost control of other people. My point is that Leavitt’s alleged actions were worse than Briles’ alleged actions yet society allowed Leavitt a second chance. And it’s a second chance that I agree with.
So why was Leavitt’s second chance embraced while the thought of a second chance for Briles will have a person shunned? There are a couple of reasons for this.
The first reason is timing. When Leavitt was fired by South Florida, society was much different. We as a society had empathy for others, but we didn’t allow that empathy to be the catalyst for publicly shaming a potentially guilty party. Reason played a much greater role in decision making back in 2009.
The second reason that Leavitt’s second chance was embraced is due to the genders of the alleged assaulted parties combined with the timing of the incident. If Leavitt would have struck a woman, his second chance still would have occurred, but it would have been more harshly scrutinized. We live in a society where a man can be assaulted. Just don’t assault a woman. And that isn’t my way of saying that assaulting a woman should be tolerated. It’s my way of saying that assault is assault regardless of the gender of the victim. Remember, we’re all supposed to be equal.
The elements of timing and gender are being tied together through the misuse of Title IX. Title IX was never intended to be used as a mechanism to fight against sexual assault. Furthermore, it is stated in that AAUP link that using Title IX in this manner can actually lead to more gender inequality. And that perpetuation of gender inequality is on full display when comparing the alleged misconduct that happened at South Florida and Baylor.
Leavitt was provided with a second chance when he was hired by the 49ers. He seemed to have made the most of that second chance as it resulted in Colorado being comfortable with him being around college players. Leavitt’s success story should be used as an example when contemplating whether or not Briles should coach again.
E-mail Seth at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.