TAMPA — The University of South Florida overpaid three top administrators — and committed $1.7 million too much in severance for former football coach Skip Holtz, according to a state audit released this month.According to Florida law, the school is allowed to pay administrators $200,000 from state funds for salary, bonuses and cash-equivalent compensation. That rule was broken in three instances, the audit found.Provost and executive vice president Ralph Wilcox was paid $154,660 over the limit. Arthur Guilford, regional chancellor of USF Sarasota-Manatee, made $38,494 above it. And Bill Hogarth, interim regional chancellor and the director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography, made $17,064 more than allowed.The audit recommends that USF review the salaries of all administrators and restore the excess money taken from state funds. USF said it will do that.Auditors also took issue with the $2.5 million over five years that Holtz is being paid after he was fired a year ago. University employees' severance pay can't exceed 20 weeks of compensation, according to state law.However, USF has contended the money is for damages, as spelled out in Holtz's contract — not severance. The millions are required because Holtz was fired without cause, USF replied.The Auditor General disagreed and concluded simply that the university should "ensure that future severance payments comply" with Florida law.The operational audit, conducted by the state Auditor General, is done once every two years. This year, the auditors recommended nine areas for improvement. That includes recommendations that USF ensure that required textbooks are posted online at least 30 days before class starts and that it lowers the distance-learning fees for online courses.The university is allowed to collect only enough distance-learning fees to cover the cost of offering classes online. USF collected $19.9 million over two years for courses that cost $16.1 million, the audit states.USF said it will work to remedy that, too.Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.