USF's Holtz on the hot seat heading into game vs. Pitt
Before this forgettable season, South Florida coach Skip Holtz suffered similar adversity one other time. In fact, he helped conquer it when he was his father Lou's offensive coordinator at South Carolina.
In 1999, the Gamecocks finished 0-11. A year later, they won eight games and went to the Outback Bowl.
South Florida (3-8, 1-5 Big East), which will welcome Pitt (5-6, 2-4) on Saturday night to Raymond James Stadium, isn't as far in the college football darkness as those '99 Gamecocks.
But some USF fans are getting close.
One man was pictured in the Tampa Tribune wearing a bag over his head, with the words “Fire Holtz” in big, black letters. “Fire Skip Holtz” pages are available on Facebook and Twitter for fans to voice displeasure. People are disappointed after the Bulls were picked to finish second in the Big East preseason media poll. Four voters chose USF No. 1.
Holtz hopes to stick around long enough to rebuild the program, but he stays above the rhetoric. After all, he signed a contract extension in June that will pay him $2 million per year through 2017, and USF owes him a $2.5 million buyout if he is fired.
“I don't coach that way,” Holtz said when asked if he was worried about his job. Athletic director Doug Woolard refused comment.
“I've been through hard times, been through difficult times,” Holtz told the Tampa Bay Times. “There's no doubt this is a difficult time. I look at (that) we're close, but we haven't gotten it done.”
Holtz has been especially upset by a series of tight losses — one point to Syracuse, two to Louisville and four to Ball State.
He said the only time the team hasn't been competitive in his three seasons at USF was the second half of Pitt's 44-17 victory last year at Heinz Field.
USF entered that game with a 4-0 record, including a 23-20 victory at Notre Dame, but it has lost 15 of 19 games since (2-11 in the Big East).
In fact, the seniors have won only 24 games in four seasons, a program low for a USF senior class.
“I know it hasn't been the type of year everyone expected when we came into this,” Holtz said. “But there is a great deal of love and respect amongst this team for the senior class and the character they have shown and the way they have kept this thing together.”
Chief among those seniors is four-year starting quarterback B.J. Daniels, who broke his ankle Nov. 3. He was replaced by Bobby Eveld, who suffered a separated shoulder in the next game. Redshirt freshman Matt Floyd, who started a 27-10 loss to Cincinnati last week, will play against Pitt.
Holtz said Daniels has attended many practices since getting hurt.
“Obviously we miss his productivity and his 10,000 yards of offense,” Holtz said. “But as much as anything, we miss his leadership.
“He was definitely the battery life. He was the one who turned the lights on.”
Notes: Pitt remains in the mix for the The Beef ‘O' Brady's Bowl on Dec. 21 in St. Petersburg, Fla. Bowl officials tweeted: “We'll see if Pitt loses to USF. If Pitt wins, there's a good chance they'll come to St. Pete.” ... Wide receiver Devin Street (ribs) and tight end Hubie Graham (shoulder, ankle) have been practicing and were expected to make the trip to Tampa.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7997.