Bonesville File Photo
by Brian Bailey.
Why wouldn't football coach Skip
Holtz stay at East Carolina? After all, he knows there's a good thing
going in Greenville, and if you're a Pirate Club member who has made a
financial commitment during the recent economic downturn, you should
consider yourself one of the reasons. Read about it in the next issue of
The Pirates Chest magazine.
In the world of brief courtships that
are coaching searches at this time of year, Skip Holtz may have kissed
South Florida goodbye.
Holtz's twitter on Wednesday
indicated he was back in Greenville where there is work to be done with
recruiting and hiring a new defensive coordinator.
He's not acting like a guy planning a
change of address. Still, if you listened to talk radio in the Triangle
on Tuesday, you'd have thought that Jennifer Holtz was at home packing
and a moving van was on the way to take the Holtz family belongings to
Holtz may well have investigated the
job vacancy created by the dismissal of Jim Leavitt and decided to leave
The St. Petersburg Times has not
scratched Holtz as the top candidate for the job and stated in today's
editions that he could be introduced as the Bulls' new boss before
week's end. Hopefully, the return of Holtz to Greenville wasn't to
inform his players of a pending move.
The head coaching position at Tennessee
subsequently came open with all the clandestine drama and ensuing
bitterness of the Baltimore Colts' departure to Indianapolis years ago.
The early speculation on potential candidates for the Volunteers hasn't
involved Holtz, who has guided the Pirates to consecutive Conference USA
Speaking of speculation, there has been
a lot of it from the media, including to a degree, from his dad Lou
Holtz on ESPN, when the Kansas job was open, about various destinations
for the ECU coach. There may have been much more speculation from the
media than interest on Holtz's part.
I plead guilty to thinking that Holtz
would have been a good fit at Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish apparently
were focused on Brian Kelly all along.
Maybe we will start listening when
Holtz, who has no agent to market him, insists he's hesitant to abandon
the football program he's been building at East Carolina.
The reason we aren't inclined to listen
is that for every successful coach who is happy where he's at, there's a
Lane Kiffin or Bobby Petrino who's ready to jump the fence for greener
pastures elsewhere at a moment's notice.
There are a lot of good reasons for
Holtz to remain in place. If he does it's testimony to the sound
judgment that has helped him build a championship program at ECU.
The first four reasons are within his
own household — Jennifer, Trey, Chad and Hailey. Holtz knows from
firsthand experience what it's like to grow up as the son of a coach.
There was no moss growing on his dad, Lou, as he moved from William &
Mary to N.C. State to Arkansas to Minnesota to Notre Dame to South
Carolina during his career — with a brief stint at the helm of the New
York Jets along the way.
The younger Holtz knows what it's like
to say farewell to friends, start life at a new school and do the same
thing again four years later. It's well known in the Holtz family that
Mom raised the children and Lou went about the business of running
football programs. Skip obviously has a similar passion for coaching but
he also appreciates the value of as much stability as possible at home.
Although Skip and Jennifer both have
family in Florida, it's another thing to uproot children — especially
during the school year.
Skip gave some insight to the situation
when he said that Jennifer was fine with him taking over another program
and that she said he could visit her in Greenville whenever he had the
The next factor has to do with the
momentum of the football program at ECU. There's no reason to be
thinking in terms of getting out of town before things go south. There
are some significant graduation losses to address but some junior
college transfers should fill some immediate needs.
Quarterback Dominique Davis, who played
well at Boston College before encountering academic issues with the
Eagles, could be a special player for the Pirates next season.
The administrative structure at ECU is
another factor that Holtz cites from time to time when he's talking
about what makes his situation special. Athletic director Terry Holland
recognized Holtz's potential back in 2004. Within the Pirates'
resources, practice facilities have been improved, meeting rooms have
been remodeled and a stadium expansion is underway.
Holland realizes that football is the
flagship program at ECU. He's given Holtz the freedom to explore other
job opportunities but managed to reward him when he's demonstrated his
loyalty to the Pirates.
Above Holland in the chain of command,
of course, is Chancellor Steve Ballard, a former College World Series
shortstop at Arizona. Having a campus leader with a real understanding
of athletics can't be underestimated from the standpoint of a perceptive
Holland and Ballard have been enablers
for Holtz in terms of rebuilding from the desolation of
2-9 seasons before he assumed
The well-organized Holtz has things in
place. He also knows that ECU has a rather remarkable fan base. Season
ticket sales have risen steadily during his tenure and despite the
economic downturn, the Pirate Club is flourishing. (Again, check out the
report in the February issue of The Pirates Chest magazine).
Possible Hudson successors
ECU's return to football prominence
under Holtz hasn't come without the cost of losing defensive coordinator
Greg Hudson to Jimbo Fisher's new staff at Florida State.
At least, we're dealing in the
speculative realm with possible replacements for Hudson rather than for
the head coach at the moment. Hudson's departure will be an adjustment
for Holtz, personally and professionally. They were teammates at Notre
Dame and Holtz is the godfather of Hudson's oldest son.
Hudson's exit creates the possibility
that Ruffin McNeill could return to his alma mater. McNeill was a
candidate for the head job at Texas Tech, serving well in an interim
capacity in the Alamo Bowl following Mike Leach's dismissal, but the Red
Raiders opted for the head coaching experience of Tommy Tuberville.
Holtz is loyal to his staff as well as
ECU, which might mean a promotion from within such as secondary coach
Rick Smith, who has been a defensive coordinator at Kentucky, Tulane and