1. Sports

Odds are, Skip Holtz returns to coach USF Bulls next season

Published Nov. 21, 2012

TAMPA — Athletic director Doug Woolard isn't commenting on Skip Holtz's future as USF football coach, and Saturday's 40-9 loss at Miami was the low mark in a disappointing season, as the Bulls drove home without even the all-too-familiar consolation of having lost a close game.

For all the frustrations in a 3-7 record — USF has never lost eight games in a season and has two games remaining — in talking to prominent people in and around the athletic department, the consistent expectation is that Holtz will be back in 2013.

There are several factors at play in the decision not to make a coaching change, but it starts with administrators such as Woolard and USF president Judy Genshaft having a greater faith in Holtz's ability to turn things around than a vocal portion of Bulls fans do right now. That was clear this summer when Holtz — after going 1-6 in Big East play last year and losing seven of his last eight — was given an extension by Woolard through the 2017 season.

As a result of that extension, it would cost USF $2.5 million over five years to fire Holtz for simply not winning enough games. That isn't a prohibitive amount, especially if the Big East can stay together long enough to get a new TV deal signed this winter. It raises a legitimate question central to any discussion of letting Holtz go: Whom would the Bulls be able to get to replace him?

In many ways, the USF job isn't what it was when the Bulls hired Holtz away from back-to-back Conference USA championships at East Carolina in January 2010. USF had been to five straight bowl games, had pulled off a huge win at Florida State and was seen as challenging for a Big East title.

Today, it's a different atmosphere, for USF and its conference. The Bulls are 2-12 in their past 14 Big East games and will say goodbye to QB B.J. Daniels as part of a strong senior class. The larger question for a potential hire is what the Big East will look like, with huge changes already to the conference's future lineup, Rutgers the latest school leaving and the ACC ready to pounce on another, likely Louisville or Connecticut.

That all points to Holtz having another chance to regain the program's success and fans' hearts next season. He'll have his first full 25-player recruiting class in February, with glaring needs for immediate help at cornerback, quarterback and running back. And while Holtz looks to be back, there could be changes on his staff. He has pointed to pass defense as a problem area all season, and defensive backs coach Rick Smith has acknowledged his job is in jeopardy. Defensive coordinator Chris Cosh could be lacking job security as well, despite a two-year contract through next season.

THIS AND THAT: USF will host Big East championships in women's tennis and outdoor track in 2014 and in men's tennis in 2015. Big East newcomer Central Florida will host conference championships for women's soccer in fall 2014, with women's golf at Reunion in 2014 and 2015. … USF lost pitching coach Chuck Hernandez to the Marlins, but he's optimistic about the staff he leaves behind for next spring. The key, he says, is junior Nick Gonzalez, a lefty from Leto who went 4-1 with a 2.63 last year and should step into the weekend rotation.