South Florida Player's High School Coach Won't Back Down
Mitchell, who also is an ordained deacon, was Miller's coach at Wharton. Mitchell told FanHouse on Wednesday he stood by his original comments in the FanHouse report. "I'm not taking back anything I said to you on Sunday," he said.
Mitchell and Paul Miller, Joel's father, told FanHouse that Joel Miller told each of them he had been grabbed by the throat and struck twice in the face by Leavitt at halftime of the Louisville game on Nov. 21. Five members of the USF program also told FanHouse that they witnessed the incident and other members of USF's program said Miller told them about the incident.
When asked about the incident Monday afternoon by FanHouse, Leavitt refused to discuss the allegations. "Things that happen or don't happen usually are kept within the team -- whether they happen or don't happen," he said.
After the FanHouse report was posted, Leavitt told local newspapers that he had never struck a player.
Gary Collins, who was Miller's youth football coach and has known Miller since he was five, talks constantly to Miller. Collins would not comment to FanHouse about the incident because Miller asked him not to talk about it.
Since FanHouse's story was published, Paul Miller told local newspapers Leavitt did not slap his son. Mitchell said he doesn't know why Joel Miller also changed his story.
"To be honest with you, he has to live with it," Mitchell said. "I'm not saying I'm surprised or anything like that. His story is what it is.
"If it was me, whatever happens to me, I tell it like it is. But I can't speak for him. He has to speak for himself. Only he can answer why [he changed his story]."
Mitchell said he hasn't talked to Joel Miller since Dec. 10. In his initial interview with FanHouse, Mitchell, who has been coaching 27 years, including the last 13 at Wharton High School, said he would not recommend any more of his players to play for Leavitt at USF.
"I would not send a kid where he will be humiliated or mistreated," Mitchell said. "It [playing for Leavitt] is like knowing someone is considering buying a bad car. You tell them 'It doesn't run, it's no good, don't buy it.' If they still decide to, they have to live with that decision. But at least I let them know how bad it was."
On Wednesday night, Joel Miller said Leavitt didn't hit him.
"People can say different things but he [Leavitt] only grabbed my shoulder pads to motivate me, because he's a passionate guy," Miller told ESPN.com. "He never apologized because he had nothing to apologize for.
"I believe that my family's story was misrepresented. I told this to the school when they interviewed me for a half-hour or hour on Tuesday. Basically, I wasn't having a good game on special teams and he tried to motivate me. He [Leavitt] never did any of those things and he never has that I've seen. I had some things on my mind because my grandfather had died the day before. Coach Leavitt cares about me. We talk all the time."
A South Florida spokesman said the school would review the allegation. Thomas Gonzalez, an external expert specializing in workplace issues, is working in conjunction with Sandy Lovins, USF's Associate Vice President for Human Resources.
Gonzalez was asked if Miller's public comments compromised the integrity of the investigation.
"I'm not going to talk about the investigation until it's over," Gonzalez told The Tampa Tribune.
On Tuesday, a day after FanHouse's initial report, Miller's older brother, Paul Jacob Miller, told Tampa radio station 620-WDAE that since his brother is a walk-on and is not on scholarship "if he opens his mouth at all, he has everything to lose."
Miller's brother also told WDAE that "the whole team saw it [the incident]."
"I talk to my brother often and from what I gather Leavitt, for lack of a better term, is an 'a-hole,' " Miller's brother said. "He's impossible to talk to.
"I've never been in a room with a Division I football coach so I don't know the conversation. But he's impossible to talk to. He's just not a very nice man. He's not a very good coach as far as I'm concerned."
Contact FanHouse reporter Brett McMurphy at email@example.com