Jim Leavitt joined the Ducks as defensive coordinator and the first member of Willie Taggart’s staff on Dec. 16, 2016, arriving in Eugene as one of the top defensive minds in football.
With 38 years of experience coaching on the defensive side of the ball, Leavitt has built standout defenses at both the college and professional levels. Before coming to Oregon, Leavitt spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Pac-12 rival Colorado, shaping the Buffaloes defense into one of the nation’s best. He was rewarded for the improvements at Colorado when he was named the FootballScoop Defensive Coordinator of the Year, as well as being named a finalist for the Broyles Award which goes to the nation's top assistant coach.
Leavitt brought the Colorado defense to new heights in 2016, leading a unit that finished the regular season eighth in the nation in yards per play (4.69), 17th in the nation in total defense (328.3 ypg), 13th in passing defense (182.5 ypg) and 18th in scoring defense (20.5 ppg) while helping the Buffaloes to an appearance in the Pac-12 title game. In his first year at CU in 2015, Leavitt’s unit climbed to seventh in the Pac-12 in total defense (416.9 ypg), up four spots from 2014, and had the fifth-largest difference in opponent point differential (11.5 points) in the nation.
Leavitt spent four seasons in the professional game before going to Colorado, helping the San Francisco 49ers to a 44-19-1 record, two NFC West titles, one NFC Championship and an appearance in Super Bowl XLVII as linebackers coach. Under head coach Jim Harbaugh, Leavitt tutored a linebacker corps that produced two first-team All-Pro selections in Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman and was one of the top defenses in the league during his time in San Francisco.
Prior to joining the 49ers, Leavitt took on and conquered the challenge of building a collegiate program from scratch. Hired as South Florida’s head coach in 1996, Leavitt had roughly a year-and-a-half to hire a staff, recruit players and get the Bulls ready for their first taste of collegiate football. The school competed for the first time as an independent in the I-AA (now FCS) level for its first four years of existence (1997-2000), compiling a 27-17 record and was ranked for 24 consecutive weeks at one point. USF won its first-ever game, a resounding 80-3 win over Kentucky Wesleyan.
USF and Leavitt made the jump to the I-A (FBS) level in 2001, competing for two seasons as an independent and compiling records of 8-3 and 9-2. After spending two seasons in Conference USA, USF joined the Big East in 2005 and earned its first-ever bowl appearance in the Meineke Car Care Bowl against North Carolina State.
Leavitt would keep USF on the rise over his final four seasons as its head coach, peaking at No. 2 in the polls in 2007 with a 6-0 start before finishing 9-4 and falling to Oregon in the Sun Bowl. Records of 8-5 in each of his last two seasons with the program gave Leavitt 11 winning seasons in his 13 years as the Bulls’ leader and a 95-57 (.625) overall record, including a 68-40 (.630) mark and five bowl appearances (3-2) in five seasons as an FBS program.
Leavitt started his career as a graduate assistant in 1978 at the University of Missouri, the same school he lettered for as a safety from 1974-77, and spent two seasons there while earning his Master’s degree in counseling. His first full-time coaching position came in 1980 at the University of Dubuque (Iowa) as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach as well as the head track coach and head strength coach. Leavitt then spent five years (1982-87) at Morningside College, the first as special teams coordinator and then next four as defensive coordinator.
After 10 years at smaller schools in Iowa, Leavitt accepted an academic internship at the University of Iowa. While there, he was asked to join the Hawkeye staff as a graduate assistant for the 1989 season. Leavitt then joined Kansas State’s staff in 1990 as linebackers coach for two seasons before adding co-defensive coordinator to his resume (with current Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops).
Leavitt helped Kansas State, one of the least successful programs in all of Division I-A in the 1980s, to a tremendous turnaround that saw the Wildcats post a 45-23-1 mark with three bowl appearances in his six seasons with the program. Leavitt turned a defense that was ranked 93rd in the nation in his first season into the nation’s top unit in 1995, producing four first-team defensive All-Americans. Leavitt then left Manhattan to begin his impressive construction of the USF football program.
Born in Harlingen, Texas, Leavitt graduated from Dixie Hollins High School in Florida where he lettered in football and baseball. Leavitt then played both football and baseball at Missouri, where he earned his degree in behavioral sciences and health education in 1978 before beginning his coaching career.
Leavitt is married to Jody Leavitt and has three daughters, Deandre, Sofia and Isabella.