TAMPA — Skip Holtz hasn't worked in a city this big, but he doesn't mind being a college coach in a metropolitan area more recognized as a pro market.
Take Thursday night, when USF's new football coach has been invited to drop the puck before the Lightning's game against Boston at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"I'm embracing it," Holtz said Tuesday night, catching his breath after a busy first few weeks focused on recruiting. "People said, 'Oh, it's hard being in a pro market,' but I don't see that. I like it."
Lightning fans should know he has been to a game before, catching one while in town with South Carolina for the Outback Bowl in 2001.
Hockey has followed him in his coaching career. He was Connecticut's coach when the Hartford Whalers moved to Carolina, but he was reunited with the team (as the Carolina Hurricanes) when he coached at East Carolina.
"I love the sport. We used to go to quite a few games," said Holtz, remembering how he could get seats right on the ice for minor-league hockey after the Whalers left Connecticut.
Chances are he'll have a good seat Thursday, and next on his list after his hockey cameo is completing his coaching staff — assigning positional responsibilities and deciding on the last two assistants.
RBs coach Carl Franks and WRs coach Phil McGeoghan were carried over from Jim Leavitt's staff with the understanding they'd be evaluated. Both did well in recruiting, with Franks coordinating the class and McGeoghan closing the deal with two late commitments.
Getting there: Sunday's basketball loss at Notre Dame wasn't enough to keep USF from getting two votes in this week's Associated Press Top 25. Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis put the Bulls at No. 24 on his ballot. ESPN.com's Bracketology projections have the Bulls (15-8, 5-6 Big East) among the first four outside the NCAA cut, with a 40 percent chance of making the NCAAs for the first time since 1992.
Six off to Indy: The invitation list for the NFL combine workouts in Indianapolis this month came out this week, and USF has six players participating, twice as much as any other Big East school.
DEs George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul, S Nate Allen, LB Kion Wilson, CB Jerome Murphy and WR Carlton Mitchell will be at the combine. That's more in one class than in the previous four years combined for the Bulls.
During the past three years, USF has had a Big East-high 10 players work out at the combine. Six other Big East teams had eight or nine, showing the balance of talent across the league.
This and that: It has been more than a month since Leavitt was fired, and attorneys for him and USF are expected to meet for a mediation this month. USF determined it had fired Leavitt "with cause," which meant he would not get $7.1 million contractually entitled to him had he simply been fired "without cause." Neither side will confirm a date has been set, but USF said the mediation will be "in the next couple of weeks." … The Big East will release dates for fall's conference games today, and if there are weeknight games for USF, that won't be a problem for Holtz, who went 4-1 in non-Saturday games the past two seasons at East Carolina. With the ACC title game no longer in Tampa, look for the Bulls to get a home game in the final week of the season.
Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.