My friends, you would think I would be wiser after having my head handed to me from my last ill-fated prediction about a coach. But I’ve been gathering some data and some thoughts, and while I would love to end up 50/50 on my coaching predictions, it may not happen. Yet … it could. Let’s look at some reasonable aspects concerning whether defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt stays or leaves our Beloved Ducks.
Reasons for Leaving…..
There are a couple of them, but the biggest is the rumor that Florida State will increase his salary from his current $1.15 million at Oregon to around $2 million. Frankly, that is hard to pass up. I read that there are two DCs nationally receiving compensation of $1.6 million and $1.8 million, but Leavitt is worth the extra cheddar. I believe Jim is critical to the new Seminole staff and it would not surprise me to see FSU increase his salary to make him one of the highest paid defensive coordinators in the nation.
Another component concerning his salary is what was reported by our friends at the Duck Territory, 24/7 website (via Kevin Wade) regarding the Florida state retirement system. Under the old rules (that Leavitt qualifies for) you only had to work six years to be entitled to a pension. Because Jim was earning $750,000 a year when he left, and with this money compounding, it could be a sizable monthly payout once he hangs it up.
If he goes back to Florida and adds to it while earning 2 million? He would have quite a payout for life in addition to his salary from Florida State. With a wife 14 years his junior and two very young daughters, this matters.
Losing a Popularity Contest by a Landslide Hurts
If his feelings are hurt, I don’t blame him. When over 70 players sign a petition to hire the other coordinator over you and the other guy gets hired? Damn … that is a big emotional band-aid to rip off and I know it must hurt to feel rejected both professionally and on a personal basis with the players you come in contact with every day.
I had a Duck-Buddy call me and ask, “why didn’t the players like Leavitt?” I told him I believe they do like him and respect him, but they like Mario Cristobal more. It isn’t bad on Jim, it’s just a matter of the players getting super fired up for Cristobal. Not much Leavitt can do about that.
I really understand Jim’s feelings when you work hard and have people ‘diss you. I get it often on other sites when stuff is written about FishDuck.com or me personally, such as the following comment:
“All of this is good reason to read nothing at FishDuck.com. Sorry not disrespecting the guy but the stuff on that site is beyond stale.”
My friends … that is but a tiny fraction of the negative written about me over the past six years. We all have feelings and of course Jim and I have our name out there while the internet tough guys cowardly hide behind screen names. We bust our butts, while others take personal shots with no consequences and without realizing all the time we give. I hear you Jim, and I am here to tell you that you do not deserve this.
The problem for Coach Leavitt is this: if he stays, he has to look at all the players who did not choose him and he has to look at the guy who beat him out for head coach on a daily basis. Yikes. That alone could require a fresh start elsewhere, and you can’t blame him. Who needs that?
Reasons For Staying
Money. That’s right, Oregon can beat Florida State in that area as FSU has to pay the $3 million dollar buyout for Taggart’s contract; the Ducks can spread that out over five years to pay Leavitt, and that would be $600,000 a year, raising Jim’s salary to $1.715 million. But Oregon has gone from 2.9 million a year to 2.5 million a year at the head coach position, so add that to the aforementioned and Leavitt could get 2.175 million a year without Oregon putting out any more dollars than it did under Taggart’s staff. Would FSU match this and pay the $500,00 buyout for Leavitt?
I don’t think so.
You may say that the salary between the head coach and defensive coordinator is too close. Baloney. Without a great defense, Cristobal is sunk, and he knows it, which is why he and Oregon want him back. And that Florida pension? Leavitt would still qualify for it from his time at USF, AND he would get un-godly amounts stuffed into the Oregon PERS system for another guaranteed income for his young wife and daughters.
That would not suck.
Leavitt won the popularity contest with the FANS…
Yours truly wrote in comments of other articles on this site that I understood the skills Cristobal had, but acknowledged that the pieces on offense were already in place with even a decent offensive coordinator. What we need is Jim Leavitt turning this defense into the best ever in the history of Oregon football.
He may have lost the popularity contest with the players, but he won it with the fans. Is .500 good enough for you, Jim? The current head coach, the administration, the fans, and everyone but some 18-22 year olds were cheering for you as the choice (and even those young men still want you to be the DC).
While I admit it would be tough to stay in Eugene from an emotional standpoint, how hard would it be for Coach Leavitt to follow a man to FSU whom he now knows is dishonest? Jim was distancing himself from Taggart. Turning around and firmly hitching his wagon to Willie is a big risk professionally. All the coaches recruiting against him will tell the Oregon story, and suddenly things in Florida become much tougher.
Florida State is a riskier task, as anything but huge success means coaching at Kent State to finish his career, as nobody will gamble further on him considering what happened at FSU and South Florida in his past. It is not fair, but it is very real.
Oregon is Leavitt’s BEST CHOICE
Jim knows his gut feeling dealing with his players this week in preparing for the bowl game. These are his guys who he has invested so much into, and they still love him. Recruits at linebacker have stated that they want him and will wait to see his decision. I can’t blame the young men, as Jim Leavitt is the man.
Being reasonable? He is not going to get a head coaching job for a major player (unless it is Kansas State and that is iffy) given his black mark while at South Florida. Even though he won the lawsuit, athletic directors don’t take additional hiring risks with millions on the line, particularly given Jim’s age. His best option is finishing out his career as a defensive coordinator, and doing so at Oregon.
One thing Coach Cristobal can do is recruit. At Oregon, Leavitt will get the pieces he needs to put together a championship defense. The question is whether he wishes to work with someone dishonest in Florida, or deal with the emotional issues of remaining at Oregon. Perhaps the fun in winning a bowl game can help him move past it?
Remaining in Eugene is the best option for both the Ducks and the Leavitt family, and my hope is that is becomes apparent to him.
Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
Top Photo: From Video
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