Remember the reassuring remarks of
former East Carolina football coach Skip Holtz as the Pirates prepared
to face Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl?
Holtz had been linked the several job
openings at BCS conference programs and here's what he had to say:
"I'm going to start with the entire
rumor mill that has been run around the past three weeks," Holtz said.
"I continue to say that I don't have an agent. I'm not looking for a
job. I have not applied for a job. I have not called for a job. I have
not had anybody call on my behalf for a job. I am very content with the
one I have here in Greenville. I enjoy and like it here. I am not out
trying to pedal the streets.
"I think it's an honor when people
start throwing your name around for these different jobs. It shows
people are taking notice to what we're doing in Greenville.
"I'm very fortunate to work with people
like Chancellor [Steve] Ballard, Terry Holland and the entire
administration. I feel very blessed.
"I did have an opportunity to talk to
some people who called during the past few weeks.
"After sitting down, looking at
everything and weighing our options, Jennifer and I have decided that
Greenville is the best place for us to be. We have made the decision to
be here. I'm not looking back. Right now everything we're doing is
getting ready for Arkansas and this Liberty Bowl."
Those comments were made on Friday,
Dec. 18. Holtz was probably seeking to minimize distractions to his
team's focus before the bowl game. They now serve as a reminder that
actions speak much louder than words where coaches and potential job
openings are concerned.
Holtz had shown loyalty to ECU up until
South Florida developed an interest in him after Jim Leavitt was
dismissed. The attraction of the Bulls is understandable — more money, a
BCS conference affiliation and the proximity of his children's
He probably turned down Syracuse after
winning the Conference USA championship in 2008, but when it comes to
courting coaches, it's seldom clear who rejected whom.
There's no question that Holtz was good
for ECU. He took over a program that had gone 3-20 the two preceding
seasons. Athletic director Terry Holland saw the support of the fan base
dwindling during the John Thompson regime and felt that a change had to
Credit Holland for recognizing Holtz's
potential. The ECU AD said he could see a twinkle in Holtz's eyes as
they toured the Murphy Center.
Maybe Holland is looking for such a
sign as he deals with the current selection process. Figuring out what's
going on with Holland at the moment is a little bit like putting
together a jigsaw puzzle in the dark.
Perhaps there are a few clues. No
interim coach has been named. Holland essentially said last Friday that
he wanted to take enough time to find the right person and discussed the
possibility of naming an interim coach. The requirements on the temp
would be that they would come from the ranks of the remaining staff with
the stipulation that the interim coach would not be considered a
candidate for the head coaching position.
Offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler,
running backs coach Junior Smith, tight ends coach Phil Petty and wide
receivers coach Donnie Kirkpatrick remain on the Pirates staff. They are
attempting to hold the fort on the recruiting front.
Shankweiler would seem to be the most
likely to handle business on an interim basis, but since no interim
coach has been named, perhaps the veteran ECU assistant has asked to be
considered for the head job.
Holtz has promoted from within before,
making Mack McCarthy head basketball coach after a stint as an ECU
assistant and an interim head coach. The timing with McCarthy was
different though because the position became vacant closer to the start
of the season.
Or maybe Holland felt that the Pirates'
head coaching position would be filled fast enough that an interim coach
wouldn't be necessary. Former ECU offensive coordinator Rick Stockstill
appeared to be the replacement du jour earlier this week but may not
actually have been offered the position.
It's difficult to understand why
Stockstill wouldn't leave Middle Tennessee for Greenville. He was on
Thompson's staff at the all time low ebb for the program in the major
college era and the negativity of that experience may have been a factor
in his evaluation.
Some referred to Stockstill's offense
during that 1-11 season as "Standstill" although it did produce a
1,000-plus yard rusher, Marvin Townes.
Stockstill may have encountered
problems in terms of staff. If Shankweiler, Smith, Petty and Kirkpatrick
are to be retained, he may not have liked that. Maybe he wanted the
freedom to bring aboard an entire staff and that's understandable.
In my dealings with Stockstill in 2003,
I didn't perceive him to be the inspirational type of leader that the
program needs. Maybe Holland sensed that, too. Pirate coaches like Pat
Dye and Holtz have had a knack for uniting the fan base. That helps
season ticket sales, fund raising and spreads the esprit de corps.
The timing of Holtz's departure was
unfortunate because it probably eliminated the best and most logical
in-house successor, former defensive coordinator Greg Hudson. With an
opportunity to join Jimbo Fisher's new staff at Florida State and the
belief that he was locked in for the foreseeable future at ECU, Hudson
left for Tallahassee.
Perhaps Holland will go for the son of
a famous father again. Terry Bowden and Mike Shula have emerged on some
lists regarding the ECU job although the list that Holland has is the
only one that really matters.
Danny Rocco, who has made strides with
the program at Liberty, is reportedly interested. There has been
speculation about Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson as well as Oklahoma
offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson.
Ruffin McNeill has or will get an
interview, according to Sammy Batten of The Fayetteville Observer.
McNeill was a defensive back for ECU from 1976 to 1979. He did well as
interim coach for Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl and gave a program beset
by controversy some temporary dignity. McNeill, an African American,
gambled in the late stages of the bowl win over Michigan State and the
Red Raiders delivered.
Holland has hired a minority before,
giving Ricky Stokes the basketball job after the 2004-05 season. Purple
is really the only color that matters when looking for the best man for
The remaining assistants have been on
the offensive side of the ball, which would give McNeill some
flexibility in hiring the defensive personnel. If McNeill were to get
the job, maybe he could give Steve Logan a call and ask if he's happy as
running backs coach with the Tampa Bay Bucs. Logan might be a natural as
offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach with his former Boston
College pupil Dominique Davis scheduled to join the Pirates as a
Although ECU is regarded by some as a
stepping stone position, this is the first time since Bill Lewis left
for Georgia Tech after the 1991 season that the Pirates must replace a
head coach who has departed for another program.
A dysfunctional search committee hired
Thompson after Logan was dismissed following the 2002 season. Holland
picked a winner after terminating Thompson and is obviously working
diligently to do it again. For now, it's hard to put the puzzle pieces
together. Maybe Holland will turn the light on soon.