Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Boisterous beginning

TAMPA — The mere mention of Skip Holtz's name consistently drew raucous cheers from the crowd outside the Marshall Student Center on Friday afternoon as USF introduced its new football coach.

But the enthusiasm with which the 45-year-old greeted his new job took the excitement to another level. The high point might have been when a fan, unable to contain himself, interrupted Holtz by shouting "Beat Florida!" a nod to USF's long-awaited Sept. 11 game in Gainesville.

Holtz smiled, waited for the cheering to subside a bit, then sent the crowd into another frenzy.

"That's why I'm here," he said, looking out to 10 students who had "COACH HOLTZ" spelled out on their chests.

The introduction was like the weather: warm and sunny after a cold, cloudy week of uncertainty following the firing of Jim Leavitt, the program's only coach in its 14-year history.

Holtz, who spent the past five seasons at East Carolina, winning Conference USA championships in the past two, didn't seem like a coach torn between two programs. Asked about the move Thursday night after a private jet landed in Tampa, he called it "a very easy decision."

There were more unabashed comments Friday, such as when Holtz talked about how much time it took him to accept USF's offer when it arrived Thursday afternoon.

"About three seconds later, I gladly accepted," he said.

Even Holtz's father, Lou, the former Notre Dame coach and current ESPN analyst, took a jab Friday, talking about how he was excited about his son's decision, if only from a wardrobe perspective.

"I thought, 'What color green do I have in my closet?' " the elder Holtz said. "I look better in green than I did in purple and gold. I know that much."

Skip Holtz's entrance came after a week in which Leavitt and his attorneys repeatedly asked to be reinstated as coach. A USF investigation concluded Leavitt grabbed walk-on Joel Miller by the throat, slapped him twice in the face during halftime of USF's Nov. 21 home game against Louis­ville and lied about it during the investigation.

"Today is about USF's future," USF president Judy Genshaft said. "The most important consideration in hiring a coach is finding someone with the values of the institution, and we have found a perfect match with our values."

Holtz acknowledged the hard work Leavitt put in to bring the program from nothing to a Big East team ranked in the national polls during parts of the past three seasons, drawing a respectful applause from the crowd. USF's players, many of whom wanted Leavitt to stay on as coach, said they were warming up to Holtz after a 20-minute team meeting Thursday night.

"Coach Leavitt's a great coach, and he did a lot of great things for the program. But sometimes, you have to understand change," said freshman linebacker Sam Barrington, expected to be a starter next season.

"Everybody is excited, and Coach Holtz seems like a great person. It's emotional for me, but I'm going to do the right thing and accept the new coach. I won't hold anything back, and I'll let him coach me just as well as Coach Leavitt did."

Holtz will earn $9.1 million over five years, and his job starts with two pressing tasks: entertaining 11 recruits in town this weekend and compiling a staff of nine assistants cobbled from the best of his at East Carolina and Leavitt's at USF.

Holtz can relate to USF's position of trying to establish itself amid three state schools in BCS conferences. North Carolina also has the ACC's Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State.

"We're about to move into a much bigger glass house," he said. "Everything you do positively is going to be magnified, and everything we do negatively will be magnified on a much larger scale. That's the arena you want to be in. That's why I'm here."

Coming off two conference crowns, Holtz said his rising seniors want to win the school's first Big East title in the fall, and he aimed his goals even higher: "We came to the University of South Florida because we want to win championships. We want to bring the national championship to Tampa," he told the crowd.

"You're better to shoot for the stars and hit the moon. Have you failed?" he said later. "The obligation we have is to set a lofty goal for what we're trying to do.

"Why not USF?"

Greg Auman can be reached at and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at and follow him at

Boisterous beginning 01/15/10 [Last modified: Saturday, January 16, 2010 12:17am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jordan Spieth wins British Open (w/ video)


    SOUTHPORT, England — Someday, perhaps soon, there will be a plaque at Royal Birkdale for Jordan Spieth, much like the one off the 16th hole that celebrates Arnold Palmer and the 6-iron he slashed out of the rough in 1961 to win the British Open and usher in a new era of golf.

    Matt Kuchar plays out of the bunker on the 18th hole and finishes with bogey for 1-under 69. He had a one-shot lead after 13 holes.
  2. Fennelly: Brutal weekend could be start of something worse for Rays

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Well, that was lovely.

    Brad Boxberger suffers his second loss in the three-game series, this time by allowing back-to-back homers in the eighth inning when called on to protect a 5-3 lead. “Just bad pitches,” he says.
  3. Wesley Chapel hockey camp impresses youth players, parents

    Lightning Strikes

    WESLEY CHAPEL — As a 17-year-old Triple-A hockey player, MacCallum Brown regularly plays against elite talent. As a Palm Harbor resident, he often has to travel to face that talent.

  4. Rays journal: Rays gamble on Sergio Romo's track record, heart

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Some of RHP Sergio Romo's numbers this season with the Dodgers were the worst of his career, yet the Rays feel he can be a good fit for their bullpen.

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 26:  Sergio Romo #54 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch in the 9th inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Dodger Stadium on June 26, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
  5. Rays claim not to be panicking after third straight brutal loss to Rangers (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — There was no "here we go again" moment in the dugout as Rougned Odor's two-run homer in the eighth inning arced across Tropicana Field and toward the rightfield seats, even though when it landed, the score was tied and another late-inning Rays lead was blown.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria heads back to the dugout after fouling out in the ninth inning with the potential tying run on first.