High-energy first weekend continues for Holtz

16

January

TAMPA -- Sitting in the front row of the student section at USF's men's basketball game Saturday night, Erin Floto proudly held a sign that read "RESERVED FOR COACH HOLTZ."

Just before halftime, USF's new football coach saw the sign from across the arena, waved and mouthed the words "I'm going to be there."

Skip Holtz took the microphone at midcourt and knew the right things to say to a loud Sun Dome crowd on its feet -- "Doug Woolard told me ... the best part of the University of South Florida is the student body," he said. Then a quick radio interview, and sure enough, Holtz went up the steps, into the middle of the student section and mingled, making good on his promise.

"A lot of coaches would say that and wouldn't do it, but he actually came up and got to know his student body, and that means so much," said Floto, a sophomore from Melbourne. "We're really excited. He turned ECU around, did an amazing job in Conference USA, and we're for him to come here and make a great change."

Holtz wasn't done, walking across the court and sitting down with the TV crew -- this is ESPN360, mind you -- and sat in on their broadcast until the second media time out. And even though 11 recruits are in town for official visit, Holtz stuck around for the whole game, shaking hands with Stan Heath after the Bulls picked up their first Big East win of the season against Rutgers.

"He grabbed me after the game, and I was really impressed," Heath said. "Just a genuine guy, a lot of passion, and you can tell a lot of energy to really get things moving forward. I'm happy to see him here and supporting here. He's got some recruiting to do, but any other time, we'd love to have him. I told him I'll be at all of his football games."

Holtz has worked the city of Tampa like there's an election on Tuesday, making a quick impression in his first two days as the successor to Jim Leavitt, who was fired last week after 14 years. Holtz took the recruits to the Columbia Restaurant, where owner Richard Gonzmart was impressed by the tirelessness ofhis smile.

"He's such a great guy with wonderful values and family," Gonzmart said. "He's approachable. He's very friendly. You don't feel like he's standoffish. I wish I could be that friendly. The area is going to really embrace his style. You saw go him up in the stands with the students. I like Jim, and Jim did so much for the area. It's tragic, and I wish it didn't happen, but we have to continue moving on."

The busy night was nearly marred by tragedy, as the new First Lady of USF football, Jennifer Holtz, sitting courtside, was nearly decapitated by an errant burrito fired into the crowd from a promotional slingshot at midcourt. She was saved by an alert backhand by the oldest of the three Holtz children, 15-year-old Louis Leo Holtz III, known to all as "Trey."

"He's a quarterback, but he's also a receiver," she said. "He saved my life."

Holtz's wife and children will head back to North Carolina today until they make a permanent move to Tampa. But seeing the loud, lively reception Holtz drew from fans Friday at an outdoor news conference to announce his arrival, his wife was surprised by how quickly their new campus felt like home.

"I was told we were going to a press conference, not a pep rally," she said. "When we got on the dais and looked out in the crowd, we had friends that drove from Orlando and up from Sanibel, and so many members of the football team there, too. What I'll remember is the support, just them saying 'We're glad you're here."

[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 7:57pm]

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...