Holtz appoints new staff, makes impact on campus

USF coach Skip Holtz had plenty of time to shoot the breeze with students Saturday at the men’s basketball game against Rutgers, speaking at halftime and high-fiving fans.

On Sunday and Monday, however, Holtz was all business.

After meeting with former coach Jim Leavitt’s staff, Holtz fired five assistants: offensive coordinator Mike Canales, defensive coordinator Joe Tresey, co-defensive coordinator David Blackwell, special teams coach John Hendrick and offensive line coach Mike Simmonds.

By Monday, Holtz announced the hiring of five replacements:Mark Snyder, Todd Fitch, Vernon Hargreaves, Peter Vaas and Rick Smith.  He retained USF assistants Kevin Patrick, Larry Scott, Carl Franks, who served as interim coach after Leavitt was fired Jan. 8, and Phil McGeoghan, though he did not specify job titles.

“I’m really excited to announce the addition of these five individuals to join the University of South Florida staff,” Holtz said in a statement. “They bring a wealth of experience, knowledge, relationships and recruiting background that will serve this program well.”

Fitch (offense) and Hargreaves (defense) spent the last three years as Holtz’s coordinators at East Carolina. Vaas left his position as Miami (Ohio)’s offensive coordinator, while Smith coached defensive backs under Holtz for five years at East Carolina. Snyder is a former head coach at Marshall.

Holtz, unveiled as USF’s second-ever football coach Friday, spent this past weekend embracing USF and its student body, as well as his new players.

Holtz seemed to immediately click with sophomore quarterback B.J. Daniels, embracing him for about 45 seconds after walking off the stage at a pep rally in the Marshall Student Center Amphitheatre in front of students, reporters and university officials.

The two shook hands while Holtz gave Daniels some encouraging first words.

“He feels like he can put his trust into me and I told him I can definitely do the same,” said Daniels, who, along with several of his teammates, watched Holtz address hundreds of cheering students. “I’m confident that’s definitely a guy we can trust, definitely a guy we can move on with a new chapter of USF football.”

On Thursday, Holtz, who signed a five-year, $9.1 million contract, said he had a chance to talk to USF President Judy Genshaft and the invitation was offered. “About three seconds later I gladly accepted,” Holtz said.

USF Athletics Director Doug Woolard, meanwhile, said Holtz was his guy from the beginning.

“We had a very impressive and diverse group of candidates,” Woolard said. “As I spoke to other athletic directors, coaches, conference commissioners across the country, one name continued to surface.”

One of Holtz’s first tasks is to embrace the fans — particularly the students — who watched an ugly situation develop after Leavitt was fired for allegedly striking walk-on Joel Miller in the face during halftime of a game in November. Since then, Leavitt, Miller and USF have obtained attorneys, with Miller’s attorneys threateningto sue Leavitt.

Genshaft said she has faith in Holtz to bring stability to the program.

“The most important consideration for hiring a coach is finding someone with the values of the institution,” Genshaft said. “We have found the perfect match with our values.”

Holtz, who won back-to-back Conference USA titles at ECU, impressed the students
who attended USF’s basketball game against Rutgers on Saturday.  He took a microphone at midcourt during halftime, addressed the USF crowd and said “the best part of USF is the student body,” as told to him by Woolard.

While he was speaking, Holtz, who was accompanied by his wife and three children at the game, saw a sign that read, “Reserved for coach Holtz.” Holtz said, “I’m coming up there,” and walked into the student section to take photos and shake hands.

“I thought that was beautiful that he came out here and interacted with the fans and everybody was happy,” said Chris Howard, USF senior basketball guard. “I think it’s going to be another positive vibe (for the school) just like when they brought (men’s basketball coach) Stan Heath in.  The football team should have a great year next year.”

 Holtz held a team meeting Thursday.  On Friday, Holtz did his best to give fans a glimpse of what the future may hold for USF football.

“We want to help them become good people,” he said.  “At the same time, we came to USF because we want to win championships, and we want to win the national championship.”