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Pirate Notebook No. 408
Monday, December 7, 2009

Denny O'Brien

ECU has a hot commodity

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

Harris Poll

For the fourth year in a row, Denny O'Brien is a member of the voting panel for the Harris Interactive College Football Poll, commissioned by the Bowl Championship Series. As a service to readers of this site, O'Brien's ballot will be published in this space each Monday throughout the season.

The Harris Poll is a component of the BCS Standings. The BCS Standings also take into account the USA Today Coaches Poll and an average of several computer service rankings.

A senior columnist for, Bonesville The Magazine and The Pirates' Chest, O'Brien was nominated to the Harris Poll panel by Conference USA. View the entire 114-member panel.

Denny O'Brien's Harris Poll Ballot

(Ballot cast 12.06.09)

  1. Alabama
  2. Texas Christian
  3. Texas
  4. Florida
  5. Cincinnati
  6. Boise State
  7. Oregon
  8. Ohio State
  9. Georgia Tech
10. Iowa
11. Penn State
12. Virginia Tech
13. Louisiana State
14. West Virginia
15. Pittsburgh
16. Brigham Young
17. Nebraska
18. Wisconsin
19. Arizona
20. Oregon State
21. Stanford
22. Miami
23. Oklahoma State
24. East Carolina
25. Central Michigan

View this Week's Complete Harris, AP & Coaches Polls

View this Week's BCS Standings


O'Brien: ECU has a hot commodity
BVL: C-USA Bowl Lineup & Scoreboard
BVL: BCS Standings
BVL: Harris, Associated Press & Coaches Polls
Myatt: Bucs brace for Keenum, Cougars
Bradsher: Coach watch takes a back seat

East Carolina has a pretty good problem on its hands. Make that a very good one.

As fans celebrate ECU’s second consecutive Conference USA championship, they also are bracing for the inevitable attention that will be given to Pirates head coach Skip Holtz.

With several openings at BCS automatic qualifier schools, his name will be found somewhere on the shortlists of most of those searches, if not all of them.

That’s better than the alternative. Because if other schools didn’t have Holtz on their radar after five years of service, it would be a red flag that the program isn’t heading in the direction that it should.

If championship football means spending a month in Rumorville for ECU, that’s a fair price to pay for success. And when you consider how the past three seasons have unfolded, Pirates fans should be old hands at differentiating between rumors and reports that are built on merit.

“We’ve dealt with it the last three years as we’ve been going into this,” Holtz said. “As I’ve told them, I believe in this program. I believe in Terry Holland and Chancellor (Steve) Ballard and what we’re trying to build here.

“I’ve always been honest with them and open with them. I said don’t ever believe what you read in the newspaper. If I ever want you to know something, I promise you’ll be the first ones to hear something out of my mouth.”

While it is unrealistic to think that Holtz will be an ECU lifer, it’s also unfair to ever question his loyalty to the school. Though he danced with Syracuse for a solid week last season, he ultimately shunned a BCS automatic qualifier with outstanding tradition for a program and community with which he has developed a strong emotional tie.

Should he leave the Pirates this year or the next, it will in no way be an indictment on East Carolina, its fans, or Greenville. I also highly doubt that money is what will be the deciding factor in Holtz’s next career move, whatever that might be.

If you’ve spent any time with Holtz, you should know that he values family and relationships much more than his bank account. And when he states that he is happy in Greenville, that his family loves the community, and that he has a vision to build ECU into one of the strongest programs on the East Coast, you should take him at his word.

But you also shouldn’t be naive to think that Holtz doesn’t have career ambitions. Really big ones. At some point you have to figure that the opportunity to accomplish them — if he believes it is unrealistic to do so at ECU — might lure him to another school.

Though not the most demonstrative sideline stomper, it’s easy to see that Holtz has a competitive fire and healthy addiction to winning. His postgame montage following the Pirates’ victory over West Virginia last year and following the C-USA title game Saturday is evidence of that.

You have to admit there is something cool about Holtz sprinting from one side of the stadium to the other to deliver a series of fist pumps to the fans.

Any athletics director worth his paycheck would have to agree. That’s why I suspect many AD’s with coaching vacancies will place calls to the 252 area code soon.

They certainly should.

Holtz has taken a program that competitively was the worst in C-USA and has transformed it into the undisputed best. Along the way he has knocked off several BCS automatic qualifiers, is taking ECU to its fourth straight bowl, has built the model program in his league, and has the winningest program in his state during that time.

Certainly the best case scenario for ECU is that administrators with openings will dismiss those accomplishments and have their sights set on making a bigger splash. Perhaps they’ll place more emphasis on grabbing attention at the press conference than on the long-term stability of their programs.

Even better, maybe Holtz’s career ambition is to take East Carolina and mold it into the East Coast edition of Texas Christian. Should that be the case, there is no reason to believe that Holtz, even with a young team next season, can’t mix a formula for a threepeat in C-USA and prepare ECU for the next step in its football quest.

But if the “right” situation does present itself to Holtz, you can’t fault him for leaving. Just like you can’t automatically assume that East Carolina couldn’t attract a coach to build on the Holtz foundation should he someday decide to go.

Last I checked, ECU had one of the nation’s most respected athletics directors, one who has been a key piece in the Pirates‘ resurgence in football.

The centerpiece of that success no doubt has been Holtz. And for now fans should embrace the fact that they have a coach that many schools would like to have.

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12/07/2009 03:15 AM

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