Tag Archives: Jim Leavitt

Willie Taggart Will Have the Oregon Ducks Quacking All The Way To Levi’s Stadium

Oregon hired Willie Taggart to replace Mark Helfrich as head coach. Helfrich went 37-16 in Eugene. When his teams were good, they were really good having played in the 2014 national championship game. And when Helfrich’s teams were bad, they were bad. His final season was a 4-8 debacle. I wasn’t convinced that Helfrich should have been fired, but can’t fault athletic director Rob Mullens for making a bold decision.

The hiring of Taggart to replace Helfrich wasn’t a choice that blew me away. While I don’t believe Taggart will have long term success at Oregon, I do believe that his 2017 team will win the Pac-12 North. Call it the Muschamp Effect. Take over a program that has talent, win with it, and proceed to fall in a pit when the program is completely your own. That’s what I expect from Taggart. But for 2017, Taggart will look like a masterful hire.

Even with the dismissal of wide receiver Darren Carrington II, Oregon returns plenty of fire power on the offensive side of the ball. The Ducks return quarterback Justin Herbert, the top three rushers, one of the top two receivers, and, perhaps most importantly, five offensive linemen. Oregon will also play a schedule that will test them early. I like the Ducks’ nonconference games against Nebraska and on the road at Wyoming more than Washington’s trip to Rutgers or games against Montana, and Fresno State. Granted Oregon has to actually win those games.

Defensively, things couldn’t be much worse than they were last year. Now departed defensive coordinator Brady Hoke was replaced with Jim Leavitt. While Hoke’s Oregon defense ranked 119th in the nation, Leavitt’s Colorado defensive unit ranked 12th in the country. And the defense that Leavitt inherited at Colorado had ranked 109th in the country prior to Leavitt taking over.

Taggart will be the beneficiary of being at the right place at the right time when it comes to the offense that he will have at Oregon. Defensively he should get all of the credit for prying Leavitt away from Colorado. And Oregon should feel secure with Leavitt provided that Kansas State’s Bill Snyder doesn’t finally decide to retire.

Washington is the trendy pick to win the Pac-12 North. It’s a pick that makes sense. And because it makes sense, it’s also the easy pick. The Huskies have one of the more underrated head coaches in Chris Peterson, have what many consider to be an easy schedule, and return quarterback Jake Browning to go along with a plethora of returning talent on the offensive side of the ball.

While Oregon welcomes Leavitt to Eugene, Washington has a top tier defensive coordinator of its own in Pete Kwiatkowski. The Husky defense gave up a league low 248 points in 2016 conference play. This was due in large part to extraordinary secondary play from Budda Baker, Kevin King, and Sidney Jones. That secondary trio were all selected in the NFL draft.

Crazy stuff seems to happen every year in the Pac-12. Pac-12 After Dark is a real thing. With a sketchy schedule to go along with a revamped secondary, it’s tough for me to be confident in picking Washington to withstand the rigors of the Pac-12 After Dark. I do, however, expect Oregon to be flying high after I’m fast asleep.

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E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Misuse of Title IX in College Football

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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikipedia

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