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End of a ‘Holtz New Era’: USF fires Skip Holtz

Published: Monday, December 3, 2012

Updated: Monday, December 3, 2012 12:12

It began with a smile and a promise of a “Holtz New Era,” but ended with a final loss and a paper goodbye — a 192-word statement signifying the end of a tumultuous three-year career for USF football coach Skip Holtz.

A career that began with promise and saw big wins, including a Meineke Car Care Bowl victory and a five-year contract extension and salary bump, came to an end less than 24 hours after the Bulls capped off the worst run in USF history — a streak of 12 losses in the last 16 games, ending with a 27-3 loss to Pittsburgh — when Athletics Director Doug Woolard announced at an approximately 15-minute press conference Sunday that the search for a coach would begin.  
“We must strive to put a more successful football program on the field,” a somber-faced Woolard said. “Beginning today, we will move in a new direction toward that goal.”

Though Woolard said Holtz’s firing came after a conversation “reviewing the body of work” from the season with USF President Judy Genshaft following Saturday’s game, Holtz seemed unsure of his future with the team after the season-ending loss to the Panthers.

“I’d certainly like to be (back),” Holtz said Saturday night when asked about his future with USF. “There’s been a lot of hard work that has gone into this through players, coaches. ... I understand the hardened position we’ve put a lot of people in, with the record that we have. ... I understand the nature of this business is to win games.”

Woolard said he and Holtz met at noon on Sunday, following further conversations with Genshaft on Sunday morning.

“I believe we made some positive strides, most notably in our academics, that were helping to build a foundation for this program, and I would have liked the opportunity to see it through,” Holtz said in a press release that served as the only reaction from the 48-year old son of College Football Hall of Famer Lou Holtz. “But I understand the administration’s decision and wish them nothing but success in the future.”

The firing comes after an offseason that saw Holtz sign a five-year contract extension, bumping his annual salary to
$2 million — an extension that will have the school paying $2.5 million to Holtz over the next five years.

“When we extended his contract, we thought that was the right thing to do,” Woolard said. “As there was interest from multiple BCS schools, and because all factors pointed to us having an outstanding year this year. I think just the on-field performance was disappointing.”

USF and the rest of the Big East is in the midst of conference realignment and expansion, as the conference has seen the departure of West Virginia, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Rutgers in the last two seasons, while
adding schools from lower conferences.

Though on-field performance could be key if the Bulls are looking to move to one of the future super-conferences, Woolard said Holtz’s firing had “nothing to do with conference expansion.”

USF will now move forward for the second coaching search in its history. The first was in December 2009, when Holtz was hired after former founding football coach Jim Leavitt was fired following a university investigation that found he had physically manhandled a player and lied about it. Leavitt and the university reached a $2.75 million settlement in early 2011.

“We will enlist the expertise of university officials, community leaders and leaders in the world of intercollegiate athletics,” Woolard said. “We will not be utilizing a search firm in the traditional sense, but we may seek assistance in terms of search logistics, background checks and vetting of candidates. From a time standpoint I want to move as quickly as we can, but also as thorough as we need to be as we go through the process.”

Woolard said the rest of the football coaching staff is still employed by USF. Offensive coordinator Todd Fitch will take over all football issues for the team for now, but is not named interim coach.

“When we find a new head coach they will have the opportunity to sit with him and discuss their future,” he said.

Woolard said Sunday’s press conference would be his only public commentary until the team’s coaching search is complete.

To see Holtz and Woolard's full statements, click here.

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