K-State legend Martin Gramática and his two brothers are sad to see head football coach Bill Snyder go. But they have a suggestion for his replacement: Jim Leavitt.
Leavitt, a former K-State assistant who’s now the defensive coordinator for Oregon, is one of the names floating around as a possible Snyder successor. Leavitt famously included an exception to his contract buyout. He doesn’t have to pay it if he leaves for one particular job: K-State head coach.
Martin, who played for K-State from 1994 to 1998, was an All-America kicker and broke the NCAA record for longest field goal without a tee (65 yards). He went on to play 10 seasons in the NFL. His younger brothers, Bill and Santiago, both played for Leavitt at the University of South Florida,
Bill was a placekicker at Florida State in 1997 but left to play at USF. He also played in the NFL. Santiago was at USF from 2000 to 2004.
It was Leavitt, then a K-State co-defensive coordinator with Bob Stoops, who first visited the Gramática home to recruit Martin.
“He came to Florida,” Martin said. “He came to my house. We had a barbecue. He was like family right away. He treated me the same way before I played for him, while I played for him and after I played for him.”
Martin said he can’t think of anyone better to take over for Snyder.
“I know there are a few candidates,” he said. “As far as the perfect candidate, Jim is it. He has the same type of work ethic as Coach Snyder. Same type of perfectionism. He’s by far one of the best coaches I ever played for. He made me better. And it’s not just me. Everybody he’s touched, he’s made better.”
Leavitt was at K-State before he left for the head coaching position at USF. Martin said he built that program from a trailer (which the team used as its office) to the No.-2 team in the nation.
When Leavitt was building new football facilities at USF, they said he modeled everything after K-State’s facilities.
“Every little detail, he wanted to build it the same as K-State, from the offices to meeting rooms to locker rooms,” Santiago said. “He was reaching out to people at Kansas State.”
He said Leavitt even reached out to Snyder’s longtime secretary to get the sizes of the coaches’ mailboxes at K-State.
“That’s one of the things Joann was laughing about, because he wanted it to be identical,” Santiago said.
All that is because Leavitt looks up to Snyder so much. They said he spoke of Snyder often in team meetings and showed K-State film to illustrate his points.
“I’ve known Jim since I was 11 years old,” Santiago said. “He kind of took us all under his wing, and he didn’t have to do that. He does so much more outside of football.”
Leavitt was fired from South Florida in 2010 after a player accused him of grabbing and slapping him. Leavitt denied the allegation and sued the school for breach of contract. The parties later reached a settlement in which the school paid Leavitt $2.75 million.
The Gramática brothers said the accusation was not true.
“The kid made false accusations,” Martin said. “I don’t put anything into it. People that were in the locker room that I know, they didn’t see anything like that.
“Jim Leavitt, if anybody could question anything it’s because of his energy and the way he coaches. But it’s never malicious.”
“That’s not who he is,” said Bill.
All three brothers spoke of Leavitt’s character.
“None of us would have had a chance not only in football, but a chance in life without Coach Leavitt,” Bill said. “He’s done so much for our family.”
Bill mentioned that when he and his wife lost a son, Leavitt was one of the first people who called. Leavitt and his wife comforted Bill’s family as they grieved, he said. Bill said during the phone interview that he was at his son’s grave site, cleaning up.
“For you to call me about Coach Leavitt while I’m here ... I don’t think anything happens by accident.”
Martin said Leavitt would be committed to the success of K-State.
“If there’s a coach in college football that I think fits the image of Coach Snyder, it’s Leavitt,” he said. “The work ethic and the morals and knowing how to build a program.”
This article originally ran on themercury.com.