Commentary | USF head football coach Skip Holtz should consider leaving on his own if he can't stop program from collapsing

adell@bradenton.comOctober 10, 2012 

The USF football program is on the brink of disaster.

Everything the late Lee Roy Selmon and others worked so hard to build is collapsing.

Head coach Skip Holtz, the man who bears the ultimate responsibility for this malaise, earns $2 million per year. He certainly feels bad. But with his salary, he is the only winner here.

It will cost the school $2.5 million to terminate his contract at the end of the season. That's just change at Alabama and Florida, but this is USF. Things have been made more difficult because of the mysterious contract extension Holtz got after going 5-7 last season.

If he can't turn this thing around in the next six games, he should go. If a booster can't buy him out, Holtz should turn in his resignation and make a deal, accept $500,000 or something around those numbers.

It won't be easy; nobody likes to admit failure, especially coaches. But the school needs to save the program and perhaps save Holtz from himself.

This has been going for too long with no relief in sight.

Holtz took over the program 2½ years ago when Jim Leavitt was fired for allegedly hitting a player.

With hoopla and bands playing as he arrived, Holtz looked right at home and talked about taking this already viable program to another level.

But the numbers under Holtz paint a dismal picture: USF has lost 10 of its past 11 Big East games; the Bulls are 1-7 at home against Big East teams,

4-12 overall in the Big East; and if they lose their next game against Louisville, they will suffer the first five-game losing streak in the program's 16-year history. They missed out on a bowl last season for the first time in five years. Holtz is 15-16 overall and 3-11 in his last 14 games.

USF is the only Football Bowl Subdivision team in the country that does not have an interception.

There are more numbers, but what's the point. You get the picture; we all do.

Holtz was probably good hire after Leavitt was fired for embarrassing the program. Holtz is a nice guy, witty, tells good jokes and has never been charged with breaking any rules.

But he is part of a billion-dollar industry that is major college football and is well-compensated. The school and the fans have a right to expect more.

Some people say be patient, but there are dangers lurking ahead.

The college football landscape is fluid. Two years ago, who would've thought West Virginia would be in the Big 12. The Mountain West Conference is battling hard to get Boise State and San Diego State and others closer to their geographical area not to join the Big East next season as scheduled.

Anything can happen, and you want to be in a good negotiating position if Big East football evaporates or becomes less relevant than it is now.

After getting kicked out for not being competitive, Temple is back in the Big East after a successful run in the Mid-American Conference. It beat USF on Saturday, and the Bulls also lost to Ball State from the MAC, which lost to Kent State.

It says USF would have trouble competing in the non-BCS MAC, this from a team that not too long ago was ranked second in the nation.

USF is one of the most experienced teams in the Big East with 15 returning starters.

In college football, that usually means an improvement, but it hasn't.

The Bulls' receiving corps was supposed to be a strength with deep talent and experience. But it has been guilty of numerous drops and has underachieved.

Ray Bellamy, the man who broke the color barrier in the Deep South when he played at Miami, has been working with former USF receiver A.J. Love, the Southeast product.

A receiver with pro experience, Bellamy says Love was not taught the correct technique to be an effective receiver and has had to change a lot of his habits.

There has been speculation that USF could not get a quality head coach, but there are good candidates who would cost less than the $2 million Holtz gets.

Willie Taggart, the miracle worker at Western Kentucky, is the next rock star college football coach on the horizon. USF should consider getting him while it can.

He was the offensive coordinator when WKU won the I-AA national title, was part of Jim Harbaugh's staff during its miracle turnaround at Stanford and has turned the once-hapless Hilltoppers into contenders. Athletes love to play for him.

He is one example. There are others. Something has to be done. Too many people have poured their blood, sweat and tears into making USF a viable program on the national level to allow this digression to continue.

Alan Dell, Herald staff writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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