When Skip Holtz left his post as Colorado State receivers coach in 1989 for Notre Dame, he met his replacement, Urban Meyer.
The two could relate.
“We just kind of hit it off,” Holtz said, “talking receiver plays, how you catch a ball, stance, getting off a release – all the little things that receiver coaches get together and talk about.”
The two became close friends when Holtz, who joined his father’s staff at Notre Dame upon leaving Colorado State, returned for regular trips to Fort Collins to visit old friends.
“It’s just been a bond and relationship that has developed over the years,” Holtz said.
In 1996, when Holtz was the head coach of Connecticut, Meyer’s name was promoted by Holtz to fill a wide receivers coaching vacancy on head coach Lou Holtz’s staff at Notre Dame.
“I told him I really thought he ought to sit down and talk to coach Meyer,” Holtz said. “I wasn’t doing that just for my relationship with him. I though he would be a great fit for Notre Dame. I thought it was going to be a win-win situation.”
But Lou Holtz said he was “set” on what he was going to do: a plan that didn’t include Meyer – yet.
Skip Holtz asked Meyer to join him for breakfast one morning. When Meyer met Skip, Lou, who was also there at Skip’s request, was waiting.
A “blind date,” as Skip described, ending in a new job for Meyer.
“They were at the breakfast table, and then I got up and walked away and said, ‘I’m going to get the car and meet you back here in about an hour,'” he said. “Urban sold himself, as he has done on more than one occasion, obviously. We got in the car, and I remember coach Holtz saying, ‘Wow, he’s really impressive.'”
Meyer’s five-season stint on Notre Dame’s staff jumpstarted his head coaching career. He then landed a job at Bowling Green, Utah and eventually took over at the University of Florida in 2005, where he has won two national championships and a Sugar Bowl.
Holtz, meanwhile, left Connecticut in 1998 to become the assistant head coach on his dad’s staff at South Carolina before taking over as head coach at East Carolina in 2004.
Meyer and Holtz have exchanged words of advice for years.
“I have great respect for Urban,” Holtz said. “I can remember when he called me when he first took the Florida job when he was going through some of the decision making process. I talked to him when I went to East Carolina. I talked to him when I came here about the situation and what his opinion was.”
USF offensive coordinator Todd Fitch and Meyer also go way back. In fact, Fitch went to graduate school with Meyer and attended Meyer’s wedding. Fitch also coached with Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney at Iowa and Florida strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti at West Virginia.
“I know (Florida coaches) quite well,” he said. “They’re great people, great coaches – some of the best in the business.”
For Skip Holtz, it should be just another subplot to one of the biggest games in school history.
“I’m looking forward to it, I am,” he said. “For me, having been there a couple of times, I’m excited to have the opportunity to go back. I’m looking forward to not only playing Florida and playing in Gainesville, but having the opportunity to line up and play a good friend of mine standing on the other side of the field.”