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View from the 'ville
Thursday, January 21, 2010

By Al Myatt

Holland weighing diverse scenarios

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Remember the reassuring remarks of former East Carolina football coach Skip Holtz as the Pirates prepared to face Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl?

Holtz had been linked the several job openings at BCS conference programs and here's what he had to say:

"I'm going to start with the entire rumor mill that has been run around the past three weeks," Holtz said. "I continue to say that I don't have an agent. I'm not looking for a job. I have not applied for a job. I have not called for a job. I have not had anybody call on my behalf for a job. I am very content with the one I have here in Greenville. I enjoy and like it here. I am not out trying to pedal the streets.

"I think it's an honor when people start throwing your name around for these different jobs. It shows people are taking notice to what we're doing in Greenville.

"I'm very fortunate to work with people like Chancellor [Steve] Ballard, Terry Holland and the entire administration. I feel very blessed.

"I did have an opportunity to talk to some people who called during the past few weeks.

"After sitting down, looking at everything and weighing our options, Jennifer and I have decided that Greenville is the best place for us to be. We have made the decision to be here. I'm not looking back. Right now everything we're doing is getting ready for Arkansas and this Liberty Bowl."

Those comments were made on Friday, Dec. 18. Holtz was probably seeking to minimize distractions to his team's focus before the bowl game. They now serve as a reminder that actions speak much louder than words where coaches and potential job openings are concerned.

Holtz had shown loyalty to ECU up until South Florida developed an interest in him after Jim Leavitt was dismissed. The attraction of the Bulls is understandable — more money, a BCS conference affiliation and the proximity of his children's grandparents.

He probably turned down Syracuse after winning the Conference USA championship in 2008, but when it comes to courting coaches, it's seldom clear who rejected whom.

There's no question that Holtz was good for ECU. He took over a program that had gone 3-20 the two preceding seasons. Athletic director Terry Holland saw the support of the fan base dwindling during the John Thompson regime and felt that a change had to be made.

Credit Holland for recognizing Holtz's potential. The ECU AD said he could see a twinkle in Holtz's eyes as they toured the Murphy Center.

Maybe Holland is looking for such a sign as he deals with the current selection process. Figuring out what's going on with Holland at the moment is a little bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle in the dark.

Perhaps there are a few clues. No interim coach has been named. Holland essentially said last Friday that he wanted to take enough time to find the right person and discussed the possibility of naming an interim coach. The requirements on the temp would be that they would come from the ranks of the remaining staff with the stipulation that the interim coach would not be considered a candidate for the head coaching position.

Offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler, running backs coach Junior Smith, tight ends coach Phil Petty and wide receivers coach Donnie Kirkpatrick remain on the Pirates staff. They are attempting to hold the fort on the recruiting front.

Shankweiler would seem to be the most likely to handle business on an interim basis, but since no interim coach has been named, perhaps the veteran ECU assistant has asked to be considered for the head job.

Holtz has promoted from within before, making Mack McCarthy head basketball coach after a stint as an ECU assistant and an interim head coach. The timing with McCarthy was different though because the position became vacant closer to the start of the season.

Or maybe Holland felt that the Pirates' head coaching position would be filled fast enough that an interim coach wouldn't be necessary. Former ECU offensive coordinator Rick Stockstill appeared to be the replacement du jour earlier this week but may not actually have been offered the position.

It's difficult to understand why Stockstill wouldn't leave Middle Tennessee for Greenville. He was on Thompson's staff at the all time low ebb for the program in the major college era and the negativity of that experience may have been a factor in his evaluation.

Some referred to Stockstill's offense during that 1-11 season as "Standstill" although it did produce a 1,000-plus yard rusher, Marvin Townes.

Stockstill may have encountered problems in terms of staff. If Shankweiler, Smith, Petty and Kirkpatrick are to be retained, he may not have liked that. Maybe he wanted the freedom to bring aboard an entire staff and that's understandable.

In my dealings with Stockstill in 2003, I didn't perceive him to be the inspirational type of leader that the program needs. Maybe Holland sensed that, too. Pirate coaches like Pat Dye and Holtz have had a knack for uniting the fan base. That helps season ticket sales, fund raising and spreads the esprit de corps.

The timing of Holtz's departure was unfortunate because it probably eliminated the best and most logical in-house successor, former defensive coordinator Greg Hudson. With an opportunity to join Jimbo Fisher's new staff at Florida State and the belief that he was locked in for the foreseeable future at ECU, Hudson left for Tallahassee.

Perhaps Holland will go for the son of a famous father again. Terry Bowden and Mike Shula have emerged on some lists regarding the ECU job although the list that Holland has is the only one that really matters.

Danny Rocco, who has made strides with the program at Liberty, is reportedly interested. There has been speculation about Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson as well as Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson.

Ruffin McNeill has or will get an interview, according to Sammy Batten of The Fayetteville Observer. McNeill was a defensive back for ECU from 1976 to 1979. He did well as interim coach for Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl and gave a program beset by controversy some temporary dignity. McNeill, an African American, gambled in the late stages of the bowl win over Michigan State and the Red Raiders delivered.

Holland has hired a minority before, giving Ricky Stokes the basketball job after the 2004-05 season. Purple is really the only color that matters when looking for the best man for the job.

The remaining assistants have been on the offensive side of the ball, which would give McNeill some flexibility in hiring the defensive personnel. If McNeill were to get the job, maybe he could give Steve Logan a call and ask if he's happy as running backs coach with the Tampa Bay Bucs. Logan might be a natural as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach with his former Boston College pupil Dominique Davis scheduled to join the Pirates as a transfer.

Although ECU is regarded by some as a stepping stone position, this is the first time since Bill Lewis left for Georgia Tech after the 1991 season that the Pirates must replace a head coach who has departed for another program.

A dysfunctional search committee hired Thompson after Logan was dismissed following the 2002 season. Holland picked a winner after terminating Thompson and is obviously working diligently to do it again. For now, it's hard to put the puzzle pieces together. Maybe Holland will turn the light on soon.

E-mail Al Myatt

Al Myatt Archives

01/21/2010 03:44 AM


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