Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt leaves program

Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt has parted ways with the school after reaching a financial settlement, the school announced Thursday.

Leavitt attended a coaching staff meeting and was working in the football building as of Wednesday night, sources said. He had been under contract through the 2021 season for a total of about $5 million.

Under the agreement, Leavitt will receive up to $2.5 million over the upcoming years, though that amount could be reduced if he gets another job.

Co-defensive coordinator Keith Heyward, who also coaches the Ducks' safeties, is a strong candidate to take over the lead coordinator role. Oregon said a national search for defensive coordinator is underway.

Leavitt spent two seasons with the Ducks after coming over from Colorado, but he was not hired by Oregon coach Mario Cristobal. Rumors of Leavitt's likely departure surfaced in early January, as sources said the relationship between Cristobal and Leavitt had become strained.

Oregon's defense improved markedly in 2017, Leavitt's first season as coordinator, vaulting from 126th nationally in yards allowed to 46th. The unit held steady or slightly backslid in most categories last fall.

Leavitt, 62, spent 13 seasons as South Florida coach and has held coordinator roles at three Power 5 schools: Oregon, Colorado and Kansas State. He was mentioned as a candidate for the head-coaching vacancies at Kansas State and Texas Tech after the 2018 season.