The University of South Florida plans to look into a report that football coach

Jim Leavitt

struck one of his players in the face during halftime of a game last month.

Citing the player's father, high school coach and five USF players who were not identified, AOL FanHouse reported yesterday that Leavitt grabbed running back Joel Miller by the throat and hit him in the face twice at halftime of a game against Louiville on Nov. 21 because he was upset about a mistake the sophomore walk-on made on special teams.

"It's absolutely not true," Leavitt told the St. Petersburg Times.

In other college football news:

* Washington quarterback Jake Locker announced he will return for his senior season.

* Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, brother of head coach Bobby Petrino, is leaving the Razorbacks to take the same job at Illinois. Bobby Petrino promoted quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee to take his brother's place.

* Mississippi State defensive coordinator Carl Torbush is leaving to take the same job at Kansas. The move was announced by new Jayhawks coach Turner Gill, who also tapped former San Diego State head coach Chuck Long to be his offensive coordinator.

* A former Michigan cornerback charged with sexually assaulting a woman has pleaded no contest to aggravated assault in the case. James Lavell Whitley, 30, pleaded to the lesser charge in Washtenaw County (Mich.) Circuit Court. Sentencing is Jan. 21, 2010. Police say a woman alleged Whitley assaulted her Jan. 18.

Sport Stops

* The WBA's Los Angeles Sparks named Jennifer Gillom as the eighth head coach in franchise history. Gillom is a former Sparks player and member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

* The IAAF amended its results to list Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou as winner of the 100 meters at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The International Association of Athletics Federations has moved Thanou from second to first in its official results and lists Marion Jones as "DQ," or disqualified. The IAAF acted after the International Olympic Committee last week reallocated the medals stripped from Jones for doping.