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49ers hire former South Florida coach Leavitt

Jim Leavitt, who gained a national profile for building the University of South Florida from the ground up and, also, for his messy exit after 13 years at the school, was hired by the 49ers on Wednesday as a linebackers coach.

Leavitt was one three assistant coaches named to coach Jim Harbaugh's staff. Panthers tight ends coach Geep Chryst, who has an extensive history with Harbaugh, was named the quarterbacks coach and Ed Donatell, a 20-year NFL veteran, joined the staff as the secondary coach. Donatell's hiring was reported last week by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Leavitt was fired from USF a year ago after he allegedly grabbed a player by the throat and struck him twice in the face during halftime of a 2009 game. Leavitt, who adamantly denied the charge, reached a $2.75 million wrongful termination suit with the school last week.

Leavitt, the only coach in USF's 13 years of existence, turned a Division I-AA program into a Big East contender. The Bulls were 94-57 during his tenure, were ranked No. 2 in the nation during the 2007 season and went to bowl games in his final five seasons.

Leavitt coached against Harbaugh's father, Jack, when USF played Western Kentucky from 1997-2000.

Leavitt visited Jim Harbaugh at Stanford last spring and went to dinner with Harbaugh and his father during the visit.

"I've always had tremendous respect for him," Jack Harbaugh told the St. Petersburg Times last week. "His teams were always well-coached, well-prepared, played the game hard. My relationship with Jim has always been a good one."

Chryst, an 18-year NFL veteran, was a low-level assistant when Harbaugh played quarterback for the Bears (1991-93). Nearly a decade later, the pair reunited when Chryst was Harbaugh's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach with the Chargers. Chryst spent the past five seasons with Carolina, the final four as a tight ends coach.

Chryst, 48, has spent six seasons as an NFL quarterbacks coach in San Diego and Arizona. Under his guidance, Harbaugh, a 15-year veteran, and the Cardinals' Jake Plummer, a 10-year veteran, posted the second-highest yardage totals of their careers.

Harbaugh has added seven assistants to his staff since he was hired Jan. 7. According to multiple reports, Tom Rathman (running backs), Jim Tomsula (defensive line) and Mike Solari (offensive line) will be retained from Mike Singletary's staff. The status of tight ends coach Pete Hoener and special teams coach Kurt Schottenheimer is uncertain.

For more on the 49ers, go to Instant 49ers at 49ers.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Writer Eric Branch at eric.branch@pressdemocrat.com and follow him at twitter.com/Eric_Branch.


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