College Sports in the Carolinas
Don't miss Al Myatt's
profile of ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in the 2004
from the East
Friday, December 3, 2004
By Al Myatt
Holtz the chosen one to
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HIGH HOPES FOR HOOPS
New Leader Takes Charge
SCOTT COWEN: Busting Down the Door
KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams
BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate
East Carolina is giving Louis Leo "Skip" Holtz, Jr., a chance to emerge from
his dad's shadow and lead the football Pirates out of the depths of despair.
The man once thought to be in line to take over the program at South
Carolina when Lou Holtz retired will instead assume the leadership at East
Carolina. Skip Holtz has accepted a difficult challenge the Pirates having
just three wins in their last 25 games.
Holtz will be introduced at a 3 p.m. news conference on campus today.
Holtz made a favorable impression when he visited Greenville earlier this
week. He toured facilities, met athletic department personnel and visited
with a group of players. Holtz, who had been working at South Carolina as
quarterbacks coach at a base salary of $155,000 annually, indicated he would
accept the job when it was officially offered on Thursday.
Sources have indicated that ECU athletic director Terry Holland had as much
as $800,000 in an annual package to offer his signature hire.
Holtz's primary competition in Holland's deliberations was former Clemson
coach Danny Ford, whose candidacy was apparently resisted by interests
within the ECU board of trustees. Although Ford, 56, won a national title
with the Tigers in 1981, he was subsequently associated with NCAA sanctions
placed on Clemson.
Outgoing ECU coach John Thompson had called for unity among those associated
with the Pirate program in his final news conference on Nov. 27. Ironically
perhaps, administrators and some ECU power brokers were apparently at
least for awhile on different pages in their appraisals of whether Ford or
Holtz should be the No. 1 target. The fan base has expressed sentiment for a
wide range of potential successors to Thompson.
"I talked with Terry," Ford confirmed Thursday afternoon. "He and I are good
friends but I think they'll have something coming out shortly."
Holland was in the process of getting contract terms for Holtz approved by
chancellor Steve Ballard on Thursday afternoon. Holland told Ford he was
going in a different direction on Wednesday. Ford was in the preliminary
stages of assembling a staff earlier this week.
In selecting Holtz, Holland fulfilled a checklist he presented at an earlier
media briefing. Holtz has prerequisite head coaching experience on the
Division I-AA level at Connecticut. He also is thought to be capable of
meeting Holland's criterion of assembling an impressive group of assistants.
Holtz, 40, may bring Steve Shankweiler (offensive line coach), Dave Roberts
(running backs) and Phil Petty (graduate assistant) from the staff at South
Carolina. Jerry McManus, who has been working to bridge the gap in the
coaching transition is known to be interested in remaining on the Pirates
And Holtz will be able to go fullspeed immediately into much-needed
recruiting, a factor which Holland gave significant weight. That would not
have been the case had the ECU AD waited longer to talk to someone
associated with a bowl program or an NFL team.
The Pirates can thank the brawl between Clemson and South Carolina, which
resulted in both teams taking themselves out of consideration for bowl bids,
for making Holtz available before ECU's 2004 season ended with a 52-14 loss
to N.C. State in Charlotte. Holland conducted a preliminary interview with
Holtz in Rock Hill, SC, on Friday prior to the matchup with the Wolfpack.
Coincidently, the finalists for the ECU position had their own Clemson and
South Carolina ties.
Holland interviewed William & Mary coach Jimmye Laycock in Williamsburg, VA,
on Sunday. The Pirates also had mild but unreciprocated interest in deposed
coaches Tyrone Willingham of Notre Dame and Ron Zook of Florida.
Holtz has been an assistant on his dad's staff at South Carolina since 1999.
He was offensive coordinator for the Gamecocks until it was announced by his
father on Dec. 17, 2003, that the elder Holtz would be calling USC's plays.
The younger Holtz, whose offenses had been characterized by one back spread
sets, was assistant head coach.
Holtz played in his father's program at Notre Dame. Like his ECU
predecessor, Thompson, Holtz was a quarterback on the high school level in
Holtz has been as assistant at Florida State (1987-88), Colorado State
(1989), Notre Dame (1990-93) and South Carolina since 1999. He was head
coach at UConn from 1994-98, guiding the Huskies to 10 wins and the second
round of the NCAA playoffs in his final year.
Skip and wife Jennifer have three children: Louis Leo (Trey) III (9), Chad
Fitzgerald (6) and Hailey Elizabeth (4).
Family considerations make Shankweiler happy about Holland's choice.
Shankweiler, who knows ECU as an assistant under Bill Lewis and Steve Logan
and as a parent of current Pirates player Kort Shankweiler, has worked with
the incoming ECU coach on the Gamecocks staff. Shankweiler said Holtz and
the Pirates will be a good fit.
"He's a heckuva guy," Shankweiler said. "You'd love to have him as your next
door neighbor. I think he's what they need. He's a guy who can mix and match
with big money people, a great recruit or hunt and fish with the best of
them. He's a guy who can cross bridges and relate to who and what is best
for the program.
"Oftentimes a guy has strengths as to who they can relate to, but all areas
can relate to him. He'll bust his butt to relate to everybody. I've got a
kid in the program and I'm really excited. I think he'll do a wonderful
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