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USF Bulls' main focus on hiring new coach remains on Skip Holtz

Coach Skip Holtz is 38-27 with consecutive Conference USA titles at East Carolina.

Associated Press (2008)

Coach Skip Holtz is 38-27 with consecutive Conference USA titles at East Carolina.

TAMPA — Will East Carolina's Skip Holtz be USF's next football coach?

That was the question lingering through Wednesday, and the answer Bulls fans are waiting for could come today with the 45-year-old remaining the center of discussion as the university seeks a successor to its only coach, Jim Leavitt.

A day after he confirmed an interest in the Bulls job, citing a desire to coach in a BCS conference and move closer to family in Central Florida, Holtz's only communication came in posts to his Twitter.com page.

"Returned from (American Football Coaches Association) Conv last night," he wrote Wednesday morning. "Back at work today. First week of class for players. … Getting ready for winter workouts next Tues."

If that didn't seem focused on his current job, there was a simple late-afternoon post. "Purple!" he wrote, a nod to East Carolina's color, which he has used more than a dozen times on the site.

For all that, he remained front and center of USF's options with the consensus being the Bulls want to have a coach in place by Friday, when 10 coveted recruits are scheduled to make an official visit to campus. That works only with a coach in place, so today could be an eventful day, one way or another.

If it isn't Holtz? A familiar name stepped into the mix Wednesday.

Doug Williams, the former Bucs quarterback and their current pro personnel director, interviewed with USF officials for 21/2 hours while at the AFCA convention in Orlando on Tuesday. Williams, 54, who coached at I-AA Grambling from 1998 to 2003, also interviewed for the job at Southern last month.

Former USF assistants Calvin Magee (now at Michigan) and Dan McCarney (Florida) remained in consideration.

Two more names were dropped by ESPN.com late Wednesday: former Auburn coach Terry Bowden, now at Division II North Alabama, and Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. Whipple, who has NFL experience with the Steelers and Eagles and 16 years as a head coach at Massachusetts, Brown and New Haven, is a top candidate, Canesport.com reported

But Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Stockstill shot down an online report that he had been contacted, telling the (Nashville) Tennessean that "neither me nor my agent has been contacted by South Florida."

USF has not disclosed who it has interviewed.

Finalizing a contract for Holtz, who does not have an agent, should be a creative challenge for USF. His current East Carolina deal paid him $605,000 in base salary last year, but incentives pushed it to about $1.38 million, according to USA Today. The contract called for him to earn $25 for each season ticket sold. The maximum is 22,000, so that's an extra $550,000. East Carolina also tied incentives to fundraising with Holtz getting 5 percent of the annual donations to the Pirate Club booster organization.

In 2005, Holtz took over a program that had gone 3-20 in the previous two seasons. He has gone 38-27 in his five seasons with four straight bowl trips and Conference USA titles in 2008 and 2009. The son of former Notre Dame coach and ESPN analyst Lou Holtz, he has spoken about his desire to bring his three children closer to their grandparents.

Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report. Times staff writer Greg Auman can be reached at auman@sptimes.com and at (813) 226-3346.

USF Bulls' main focus on hiring new coach remains on Skip Holtz 01/13/10 [Last modified: Thursday, January 14, 2010 9:46am]

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