What a crazy offseason it has been for coaching changes in college football. Think of the big-time programs that have hired coaches this winter: Notre Dame, USC, Kansas, Texas Tech, Tennessee and Florida State, which hands the program over to Jimbo Fisher.
Virginia, Cincinnati, Kentucky and Louisville are among the teams with new coaches, too. And, of course, there is USF, where Skip Holtz, 45, takes over after the firing of Jim Leavitt.
So how did USF do? As of now, before one snap has been taken, we would say that USF did all right for itself. In fact, we see only one program that made a better hire than USF. A look at how Holtz stacks up against some of the other coaches hired at major programs this offseason:
Skip Holtz vs. Lane Kiffin (USC): Okay, which coach would you rather have: Coach A, who is 72-50 in 10 seasons with two programs where he coached for five years each, or Coach B, who is 12-21 with an NFL team and a college team he jilted after one season? Holtz is, of course, Coach A. Can someone please explain this fascination with Kiffin? He keeps getting jobs — really good jobs — despite having little or no success at the head coaching level. Is it because he brings along his dad, Monte, who happens to be one of the best defensive minds in football? Anyway, Kiffin now has one of the elite jobs. Meanwhile, USF has the coach with the better track record.
Skip Holtz vs. Charlie Strong (Louisville): Perhaps if this Jim Leavitt mess had been settled earlier, USF would have made a pitch for Strong, a former Florida defensive coordinator. And Strong might have taken the USF job. Instead, Strong signed with Louisville on Dec. 9. Doesn't it seem as if USF is a better job than Louisville? Both schools are in the same conference, but the advantage is USF is more of a football school than Louisville, which eats, sleeps and breathes basketball. Strong has a great reputation, and you can't question how well he coaches defense. But Holtz has head coaching experience that gives him the edge — for now — over Strong.
Skip Holtz vs. Turner Gill (Kansas): The past few years, Gill, a former Nebraska quarterback, has been the hot name because of the work done at Buffalo. Many thought he should've gotten the Auburn job a year ago. It's true that Gill inherited a program that was down in the dumps, but did he really do that great of a job at Buffalo? In Gill's four years, his teams at Buffalo went 2-10, 5-7, 8-6 and 5-7. It was only 14-18 in the Mid-American Conference. During the same span, Holtz went 33-21 with a 24-8 record in Conference USA.
Skip Holtz vs. Brian Kelly (Notre Dame): It's hard to make a case that you would take Holtz ahead of Kelly, who has a career record of 171–57–2. Kelly lost only 35 games in 13 seasons at Division II Grand Valley State. Then he went 20-16 at Central Michigan and 33-6 at Cincinnati. No question he did wonders at Cincinnati, and even Notre Dame would've found it tough to find a better fit than Kelly for its new coach. So, it would appear, Notre Dame did a little better than USF — as well it should. It's Notre Dame, for crying out loud.
Skip Holtz vs. Butch Jones (Cincinnati): Looks as if Cincinnati is trying to catch lightning in a bottle twice. Its last coach, Brian Kelly, came to Cincy after three years at Central Michigan. And now Jones comes to Cincy after three years at Central Michigan, where he went 27-13, including two MAC titles. Still, Holtz has more experience and has coached at a slightly higher level if you agree that Conference USA is a notch above the MAC.
Skip Holtz vs. Tommy Tuberville (Texas Tech): After four seasons at Ole Miss and 10 at Auburn, Tuberville is the biggest "name" on this year's coaching carousel. And he had some excellent seasons at Auburn. But don't you think USF would have been a step back for Tuberville, that he might not be as hungry to prove himself and sell a program the way Holtz will? Tuberville, who is 10 years older than Holtz, has been at bigger programs that sold themselves, and you wonder if his heart would really be into it at USF. Holtz has had to sell the UConn program and East Carolina, too. That's the type of coach USF needs — a salesman on top of his game, not a coach who could be in semiretirement. That isn't meant to disrespect Tuberville. It's just you have to wonder if Tuberville would have been as excited as Holtz at USF. For USF, Holtz is a better fit than Tuberville.
Skip Holtz vs. Jimbo Fisher (Florida State): The bottom line is Fisher never has been a head coach. Some will wink and say he really has been the head coach at Florida State the past two years. Well, that's nothing to brag about, is it? The Seminoles have gone 16-10 over the past two seasons. Look, this isn't to suggest Fisher won't do a good job. He is a proven developer of quarterbacks and appears to know how to run an offense. You could say the same about a lot of offensive coordinators out there who never make it as head coaches. Until Fisher proves he can be a good head coach, we're not sure he can be a good head coach. Holtz already has proved it.
Skip Holtz vs. Derek Dooley (Tennessee): The Bulls should be thankful that they — and not Tennessee — landed Holtz. There was about a day and a half from when Lane Kiffin left the Vols and Holtz agreed to coach USF. Who knows who Tennessee contacted in that time, but names such as Duke's David Cutcliffe, Air Force's Troy Calhoun, Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and even former Bucs coach Jon Gruden were flying around. In the end, the Vols ended up with Dooley, who has pedigree but not much of a resume. Dooley's dad, Vince, was the legendary Georgia coach, but Derek went 17-20 at little Louisiana Tech and is coming off a 4-8 season. If Tennessee knew what it was going to end up with, you wonder if the Vols would've made a run at Holtz. USF is glad it didn't, and the Bulls ended up with the better coach.