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Pirate Notebook No. 413
Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Denny O'Brien

Holtz watch comes at vulnerable time

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

The timing of the South Florida football coaching vacancy could have been better for East Carolina. Much better.

Should East Carolina Coach Skip Holtz decide to migrate to Tampa, it will place ECU athletics director Terry Holland in a relatively difficult bind. Heíll have a very short runway to hire a replacement who must quickly assemble a staff and salvage a recruiting class by National Signing Day.

Thatís not much time to determine the long- and short-term fates of your program.

The decision would be even more pressing for Holland when you consider East Carolina unveils an expanded Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium next fall with 7,000 extra seats to sell. Anything less than a coach of Holtzís professional equivalence would make the Pirates a tougher draw.

Holland's master stroke after the John Thompson firing was one thing. Scoring a touchdown after a Holtz departure is another.

Obviously, the best case scenario for ECU would be for Holtz to publicly state that he is withdrawing his name from consideration for the USF post and that he will lead the Pirates in 2010 and beyond. He clearly is the right fit for East Carolina, and the program will be a consistent contender in Conference USA and a postseason regular as long as he is in Greenville.

As far as grasping the details of the job, it doesnít get much better than Holtz. He understands the culture, has a great relationship with the fans, and has drawn a rock-solid blueprint for how to succeed at ECU.

You can certainly understand why Holtz is intrigued by the USF opening.

Itís in the weakest BCS automatic qualifier conference (translated: itís very winnable); it's located in the nationís most fertile recruiting hotbed; and, it's geographically near both his parents and his in-laws.

As a big-city commuter school with a high enrollment, Holtz also wouldnít have many issues ushering athletes with questionable academics through admissions.

Thatís a selling point for any coach. When you consider the potential academic casualties that could occur at Florida State and Miami ó where the academic restrictions are tougher ó the next USF coach could be sitting on a recruiting gold mine.

It doesnít take a football genius to see that USF clearly has more upside than Syracuse and Cincinnati. A lot more. And when you consider the geography and climate, it is a much easier sell to his family.

Even if Holtz decides to shun USF, you have to wonder if ECU, at the very least, has already suffered some minor damage from both the speculation and reports. With his name constantly getting linked to openings, you can certainly understand if potential recruits are concerned that Holtz might not be pacing the sidelines of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for the conclusion of their careers.

That is a scenario that any rival coach would use as ammunition in the living room.

You also have to wonder if the continuous connecting of Holtzís name to other positions is beginning to wear on ECU fans. While much of that has been fueled by the media, in the USF case Holtz has publicly stated an interest in the opening.

That never happened with Cincinnati, Syracuse or Kansas.

While to some degree itís a good thing for ECU to have itís head coach connected with other jobs ó coveted coaches are typically good ones ó the timing could be better for the Pirates. Had USF courted Holtz in early December, and he decided to leave, it at least would have provided Holland with enough time to recover.

The longer this plays out, the worse it could get for ECU.

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01/13/2010 03:25 AM

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