Q&A with Coach Jim Leavitt (part III)

In the final installment of the Jim Leavitt interview coach talks about the new facilities, his definition of success, and forming a rivalry in the Big East.

Josh Newberg: Ten years ago you were named the head coach, what do you attribute to the quick climb?
Head Coach Jim Leavitt: Well we have had good seasons and bad, but all the while this program has moved forward. Starting in the 1AA, to 1A independent, to conference USA and currently the Big East. Look at our circumstances, we got great location, a great university and coaches that are very committed. I mean we got coaches that worked for dorm rooms and meals, no salary. I still got two coaches on my staff that in the beginning did not get paid a penny for two years. Some people complain about their salaries but these guys made nothing, but they were committed to the vision. In the end it paid off for them. We work very hard year round and it's the same for me. I know it's been fun but I didn't go on vacation for six or seven years, and when I did it was a weekend deal. There was no time, I'm not saying look at me because all the coaches had it like that.

In the beginning we Paul Griffin was our athletic director and he had great vision. Then Lee Roy Selmon really helped continue that, and Doug Woolard is very committed. I have also been very lucky to have three presidents since I have been here and all of them have had great vision.

I really believe this, that we are just starting to find out what this program can do. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg and I really believe that. We have had great community support and I hope every year we can continue to step it up to the next level. This whole area has been unbelievable to us.

JN: Can you talk a little bit about the new facilities.
JL: Oh it's Beautiful, we are real excited about it and have had some people that have done so much to build this. You walk around here and there are not many nicer than this. Ours is very practical and functional the way it's laid out. The biggest thing is that we have room here to build on what we have. That's what I like, there is room to grow, it's four and half acres. What I really like is the academic enrichment center, its unbelievable.

JN: What is your definition of a successful season for this year?
JL: To improve every game and play better. I never really want to talk about wins and losses, and I never have since I got here. We need to improve every day. I don't know I really don't have an answer for that. Most people seem to look at it as a bowl game. That seems to be the rallying cry for South Florida. We have been eligible for 3 of the 4 years we've been in Division 1. There was a controversial issue two years ago but before that we were definitely eligible but we were independent so we couldn't go. First year of Conference USA we couldn't go because of a 1AA game. That's an interesting story, we didn't petition it but I don't know if it would have mattered. So I guess you could say a bowl game would be a success by most standards.

JN: As you look toward the season are there two or three things that have to happen?
JL: We have to have great play out of the Quarterback. Andre Hall has to continue his success. We have to play great defense and they have to get back to stopping the run game. Then our kicking game has to be solid.

JN: How do you compete against the big three in recruiting?
JL: They have more tradition than we do. They aren't bigger schools (by the numbers), they don't play in a bigger BCS situation. We are all in the same room now when it comes to the National Championship. They have tradition, so in our recruiting process we usually ask the kids if they want to be a part of tradition or do you want to start tradition. That is our sell. We have done better in recruiting, however until we beat one of those teams no one will ever call Florida the big four. That's the bottom line and that's the way it should be. Until someone does that that's the way it should be.

JN: How important is it to establish a rivalry with a team in the state?
JL: I'm not sure. You got Florida State and Florida, Florida State and Miami. I mean rivalries only start when you beat people. It would be a natural rivalry with Central Florida because they are close in proximity. Miami is also close but Miami is always playing Florida and Florida State. That is because we are a non-factor until we beat some of these teams. We are also a non-factor because we have been around for so few years. You look at Central Florida, they are probably 20 years ahead of us. We have gone 10 and until we rise up and beat someone it won't change.

I think it's very important we have a rival in the Big East. Who it will be, I'm not sure yet. We are not located near anyone. Look at whose rival was Miami's, did they even have one? I don't know, I mean Virginia Tech was kind of one but not really. I'm not sure who it will be but I think we need to establish one in the Big East first.

Q&A Jim Leavitt, Part ONE

Q&A with Jim Leavitt, Part TWO

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