USF needs honest probe into Leavitt allegation

What are we to make of this Jim Leavitt situation at South Florida?

First, Brett McMurphy from Fanhouse reported Monday that Leavitt grabbed and slapped a player -- sophomore walk-on Joel Miller -- in the locker room at halftime of the Nov. 21 game against Louisville. McMurphy quoted the player's father and high school coach and five unnamed players who were in the locker room at the time.

Later Monday, however, Miller's father said the story was blown out of proportion and that he stood behind Leavitt 100 percent. Leavitt adamantly denied the accusation. The university announced it would look into the incident.

Who are we supposed to believe here? Did the player's father back away for fear of retribution against his son? Was Leavitt, who's a fiery, emotional guy who admittedly headbutted players in the helmet at halftime of that Louisville game, wrongly accused of abuse?

South Florida needs to find out. That's why the school's internal investigation has to be thorough and honest.

If the school issues a press release in the next day or two saying Leavitt has been exonerated, then we'll know this was probably a rush job. School officials need to interview as many people who were in that locker room as possible, and they need to do it in a manner in which players will feel free to speak honestly, without fear of losing scholarships or playing time because of what they say. You don't want this situation to linger, with a bowl game on the horizon and recruiting needing to be done. But it must be a complete investigation, not a PR move.

There's no place in college sports for physical abuse, especially not from the men who are entrusted to serve as father figures to their players. South Florida owes it to its students, fans and Leavitt to find the truth in this matter.