Much to the chagrin of Colorado fans, defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt will not be back with the team next year. The Pepsi drinking, snow angel making, colorful character has found greener pastures in the form of Eugene, Oregon. A finalist for the Broyles award given to the top assistant in college football, Leavitt was an integral part of The Rise of the Buffaloes out of the cellar of the PAC-12 conference this year.
Leavitt has always been considered one of the top defensive minds in college football, and he showed his prowess in Boulder after taking over one of the worst defenses in college football the year before he arrived and transforming it into one of the best in the country. The year before Leavitt arrive at Colorado, the Buffaloes ranked 120th in the nation in total yards per play. In only two years, Leavitt’s defense found themselves in the top ten, at 8th in the country this year.
There is no doubt that this loss is a huge one for the Buffaloes, and some in the Boulder community were surprised that Leavitt would make a lateral move and leave a program he helped turn around. Leavitt’s contract at Oregon is rumored to make him the highest paid assistant coach in PAC-12 history, something that Colorado could not match. It’s also no secret that Leavitt and coach MacIntyre have butted heads on multiple occasions; with multiple sources saying their relationship was strained. Colorado graduates a majority of their defense this year, and with higher expectations, a regression was likely on defense. Taking over an Oregon defense that was one of the worst in the country gives Leavitt a chance to prove once again that he is one of the games defensive masterminds, and at a higher profile institution could lead to another head coaching job that he ultimately covets.
What’s this mean for the Buffaloes moving forward? Most people believe if Mike MacIntyre promotes internally that Joe Tumpkin, the current safeties coach for the Buffaloes would be the logical choice. He was the defensive coordinator for five seasons at Central Michigan before he transitioned to Boulder. While this loss hurts Colorado immensely, most people close to the program believe that the phenomenal recruiting class the Buffaloes have for 2017 is still committed to the program, even with the departure of their defensive coordinator. Colorado does not play Oregon in 2017 or 2018, so the only time Colorado could face their former coach is in a PAC-12 title game. Time will tell on how this effects Colorado, but the good things Leavitt did at the college will show benefits for years to come.