TAMPA — After a week of uncertainty following Jim Leavitt's firing, USF's football players welcomed the comfort of knowing who their head coach is when East Carolina coach Skip Holtz was announced as Leavitt's successor Friday.
"It's a big weight off my shoulders," said LB Sabbath Joseph, a rising senior. "I was hoping (AD) Doug Woolard would find the right person for the job.
"Everybody's excited that things can go back to normal. I'm excited, and happy about it."
The players had voiced their disappointment at Leavitt's firing after a university investigation found that Leavitt grabbed walk-on RB Joel Miller by the throat and slapped him twice in the face during halftime of USF's Nov. 21 game against Louisville, lied about what happened and impeded the investigation.
Some players said they had wished Leavitt had been allowed to continue coaching. They remain hopeful that some assistants will be retained as part of Holtz's staff.
"Nothing against coach Holtz, but I just kept expecting them to give somebody on the current staff at least an interview," said WR A.J. Love.
"There's a lot of mixed emotions (because assistant coaches might not be back), but it was really terrible not knowing who our leader is. I'm glad they didn't drag it out."
FAMILIAR FACE: Among Leavitt's assistants, receivers coach Phil McGeoghan stands out because he has spent time in Holtz's office.
As a senior in Agawam, Mass., McGeoghan was recruited by Holtz when Holtz was head coach at Connecticut in 1996. McGeoghan made an official visit to the Huskies before signing with Boston University.
"It was a great experience getting recruited by coach Holtz," McGeoghan said. "He was the most dynamic personality of all the coaches that recruited me, and we had a great rapport. I can remember my parents and I sitting in his office for about an hour at the end of our visit."
McGeoghan chose Boston University "for sheer academics" and the chance to high jump for the track and field team, but he wasn't done with Holtz. He went up against Holtz's UConn teams twice. He lost 45-7 as a freshman at BU; after BU's program folded, he transferred to Maine and lost to Holtz in 1998, 35-27.
Staff jockeying: McGeoghan and the rest of Leavitt's staff will vie for positions on Holtz's staff, though Holtz is expected to bring many of his assistants from East Carolina.
"I told the officials at South Florida that I would sit down and interview and talk to everybody that's there, and then I've got to make some decisions," Holtz told reporters in North Carolina. There are some (East Carolina assistants) that I would like to take, yes, but what's going to pan out, what's going to be the possibility of that at what position, at this point I don't really know the answer to that."
Some USF assistants have begun exploring other jobs.
Linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator David Blackwell has had contact with Michigan about its linebackers job.
Wolverines coach Rich Rodriguez has three assistants hired from USF: offensive coordinator Calvin Magee, quarterbacks coach Rod Smith and offensive line coach Greg Frey.