TAMPA, Fla. -- South Florida football coach Jim Leavitt was fired Friday following an investigation of an allegation that he struck one of his players in the locker room.
In confirming his dismissal, the only coach in the program's 13-year history told The Associated Press he was "disappointed" and the allegation was "absolutely false." He just completed the second season of a seven-year, $12.6 million contract.
South Florida said the findings of its investigation into the alleged incident will be discussed at a news conference later Friday. In its statement, the university did not mention Leavitt's status as coach.
A South Florida staff member told ESPN's Joe Schad that a meeting will be held Friday to tell the entire coaching staff it will be fired. A meeting with the players is not expected.
USF president Judy Genshaft and athletic director Doug Woolard launched the investigation last month after an AOL FanHouse report said Leavitt had grabbed sophomore Joel Miller by the throat and hit him in the face twice during halftime of a game against Louisville on Nov. 21.
"I'm very disappointed. The allegations as reported are absolutely false," Leavitt told the AP by telephone. "I'm going to respond in time."
Citing Miller's father, high school coach and five USF players who were not identified, FanHouse initially reported Leavitt grabbed the player by the throat and hit him in the face twice because he was upset about a mistake Miller made on special teams.
Miller's father later backtracked, telling reporters Leavitt did not strike his son but rather grabbed him by the shoulder pads while trying to motivate the sophomore walk-on.
Last month, Joel Miller said the allegations were not true.
"I don't think anything should happen to him," Miller told Schad on Dec. 16. "Me and Coach Leavitt are fine. People can say different things but he only grabbed my shoulder pads to motivate me, because he's a passionate guy. He never apologized because he had nothing to apologize for."
Bennett: Ugly End For Leavitt
Similar to Texas Tech's situation with Mike Leach, it appears that the Joel Miller investigation was more of a last straw than anything else with Jim Leavitt and South Florida, Brian Bennett writes. Blog
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Leavitt was hired in December 1995 and launched USF's program from scratch, operating out of trailers on campus in the early years while guiding the Bulls' swift progression from Division I-AA to BCS conference member.
USF joined the Big East in 2005 and has played in a bowl game every year since joining the league. Leavitt leaves with a record of 95-57.
Leavitt is the latest coach to be linked to supposed mistreatment of players. A family's complaint about how Mike Leach treated their son after a concussion ultimately led to Leach's recent firing by Texas Tech, and Mark Mangino resigned at Kansas in December amid allegations that he mistreated his players.
Miller told Schad last month that he plans to remain with South Florida's program.
"It's been real hard especially on my family," Miller said. "But my plan is to stay and play here."
Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney, former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville -- who has strong ties in the state from his tenure on Miami's coaching staff -- and Michigan offensive coordinator Calvin Magee are expected to be candidates to replace Leavitt, a source told ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel.
Information from The Associated Press, ESPN.com senior writer Ivan Maisel and ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad was used in this report.