Vitale a USF fan but Irish at heart

The Holtzes — Lou, middle, laughing with son Skip — have gotten support from Dick Vitale, who lobbied USF to hire Skip.

Special to the Times

The Holtzes — Lou, middle, laughing with son Skip — have gotten support from Dick Vitale, who lobbied USF to hire Skip.

Living in Lakewood Ranch in Manatee County, ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale has become a fan of USF athletics, but his family has strong ties to Notre Dame — his daughters Terri and Sherri went there on tennis scholarships, graduated with MBAs and married fellow Notre Dame graduates.

He has endowed the Dick Vitale Family Scholarship, which goes to a student involved in Fighting Irish athletics in areas that don't have financial aid, like the marching band or spirit squads.

Vitale will be in South Bend this weekend for USF's opener at Notre Dame, and while he'll be pulling for the Irish, he has a long friendship with the Holtz family.

Vitale said when Lou Holtz coached Notre Dame, he "represented everything the university was about. In terms of spirit, enthusiasm, doing things the right way, graduating players. He was just perfect, like a (Mike) Krzyzewski fits at a Duke, a guy like Roy Williams at North Carolina, (Joe) Paterno at Penn State."

When USF went searching for a head football coach in January 2010, Vitale wrote to Bulls athletic director Doug Woolard and later talked with him, saying that Skip Holtz could be the same kind of fit for USF.

"I said, 'Skip Holtz is the perfect guy.' This guy to me should have been in a big-time place a lot sooner," Vitale said. "He did a heck of a job at Connecticut, a terrific job at East Carolina. These aren't schools to win at. I was at Rutgers, so I understand what he's faced with in terms of recruiting. I felt South Florida, with the players he had in the state, that he would be perfect."

Vitale has referenced the USF-Notre Dame game on Twitter often in the past month. He predicts a 31-24 Notre Dame victory. "I'll root for South Florida in all its other games," he said. "The 12th man, the spirit, the Golden Dome ultimately takes Notre Dame to the winner's circle."

FSU: Soon, answers

TALLAHASSEE — On Saturday, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher can finally tell whether his team might meet or even exceed the high expectations lying in front of it.

Sure, he believes his team can compete with any other program, at any time, but he really won't know what he has assembled until the Seminoles play against someone else for a change.

"You feel good, you think you know your guys and they've gone out there and done it, but still, you've got to go out there and play on Saturday or whatever day you're playing on and get that opener under your belt," Fisher said. "You ask every coach at every level across the country right now; he's got the same feelings.''

This and that: Asked who he would name the No. 4 cornerback behind Greg Reid, Mike Harris and Xavier Rhodes, Fisher said Avis Commack would be his pick. Commack is a redshirt junior who switched to defense last season after playing wide receiver. ... Junior WR Willie Haulstead remained out Thursday and will not be activated this week, Fisher said. Haulstead suffered a concussion during a scrimmage last week.

Coley Harvey, Orlando Sentinel

UM: Still dangerous

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Maryland's defensive players don't want to hear anything about how much Miami will miss suspended QB Jacory Harris.

Harris is one of eight Hurricanes who will sit out Monday night's game at Maryland for taking improper benefits from a former booster. Harris started nine games last season, throwing for 1,793 yards and 14 touchdowns.

He did not play against Maryland last year because of after­effects of a concussion. Stephen Morris made the first start of his career against the Terrapins.

Morris, who'll start again Monday, passed for 286 yards in last year's 26-20 Hurricanes victory, throwing the winning touchdown pass to Leonard Hankerson with 37 seconds left.

"I know he threw a touchdown pass at the end of the game last year to beat us," said Randy Edsall, who will be making his coaching debut for the Terrapins after leaving Connecticut. "He's a good athlete. He can run. When you've got a guy like that, it makes it a little bit tougher. We've got a guy we're going to deal with who's capable of winning ballgames."

Times wires

UF: Coach's farewell

GAINESVILLE — Saturday night will be Howard Schnellenberger's final time coaching against the Gators.

The head coach is entering his 52nd season and has announced this will be his last. His hope, he said, is to make this season not much different than any other.

His Florida Atlantic team plays at Florida in the season opener for both teams. In 1983, Schnellenberger took Miami into Gainesville and lost 28-3 in the opener, then went on to win 11 straight and the first of the Hurricanes' five national titles.

"I'm going to kind of keep as close to (being like) seasons we've had in the past, although we want to win more games and qualify for bowl competition,'' Schnellenberger said. "You can't quite do that because this will be the last time you'll get a chance to play Florida, the last time you'll get a chance to play Michigan State and on and on.''

Schnellenberger said he felt making the news of his retirement public before the season was the right thing to do: "This appeared to be probably the most sensible time to make this announcement about my stepping down. What made it so easy to do is the university felt I would have value staying on as a jack of all trades, promoter of FAU football, FAU athletics and the university that we could continue on in a productive manner.''

Antonya English, Times staff writer

.UP Next

USF: at Notre Dame, 3:30 Saturday, Ch. 8

FSU: vs. Louisiana-Monroe, 3:30 Saturday, ESPNU

Florida: vs. Florida Atlantic, 7 Saturday, ESPNU

UCF: vs. Charleston

Southern, 7 Saturday, BHSN

Miami: at Maryland, 8 Monday, ESPN

Vitale a USF fan but Irish at heart 09/01/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 2, 2011 6:03pm]

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