Kansas State University

Bill Snyder says Jim Leavitt turned down offer to join K-State coaching staff

Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder tried to hire Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt as an assistant earlier this year.

Snyder, speaking Monday on the Big 12 teleconference, said he offered Leavitt a spot on his coaching staff when the Wildcats had an opening during the offseason. Snyder did not specify when he made the offer, but it would presumably have occurred last March when former linebackers coach Mike Cox left the staff.

Leavitt, one of the highest paid defensive coordinators in college football, turned down the opportunity.

“I appreciate Jim a great deal,” Snyder said. “He has always been a close friend, and I would love to have had him here as a position coach, but I didn’t have a coordinator spot for him, so I couldn’t offer him that.”

Snyder shared details of the hiring attempt when asked about last week’s report that he blocked a proposal from K-State administrators that would have made Leavitt head coach-in-waiting for the Wildcats last December. The report indicated Snyder stopped the deal, because he wanted his son Sean (K-State’s associate head coach and special teams coordinator) to take over for him when he ultimately decides to retire.

The time line of those events do not match.

“We had a vacancy on our staff and I had offered Jim the opportunity to come,” Snyder said. “The rest of it is something that I’m not totally aware of. The administration would be better served to answer that.”

Leavitt was an assistant under Snyder in the early 1990s before leaving to be the first head coach at South Florida. There, he built the Bulls into a regular winner, before losing his job in 2009 over allegations of player mistreatment.

He was considered a candidate to replace Snyder when he briefly retired in 2005, but timing issues and other obstacles got in the way of that possibility. Leavitt later flirted with joining Snyder’s staff as defensive coordinator after he left South Florida, but instead took a job coaching linebackers with the San Francisco 49ers. He returned to the college ranks with Colorado, and is now leading Oregon’s defense.

Oregon pays Leavitt a salary of $1.15 million, more than double what K-State paid Cox. Leavitt has a clause in his contract that would allow him to leave his position without paying a buyout if he is named head coach at Kansas State.

Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett