Raymond James Stadium ached with loneliness and memories of years past.
The University of South football team was putting an end to the worse season of its 16-year history and a splattering of die-hard fans came to give the Bulls' 25 seniors a boost on Saturday night.
It was death warmed over, and the individual responsible for all the rubble stood in the middle.
There were fans with bags over their heads calling for head coach Skip Holtz to be fired. When he exited the field after the Bulls' 27-3 loss to Pittsburgh he was showered with boos.
"I am with you. I am booing me right now," Holtz said after the game. "I understand their frustration. We are all frustrated, and they are expressing their frustration. They work hard to support their program. We want to win, and the frustration has to be taken out and the responsibility falls with the head coach."
Holtz said he wanted to be back, but didn't know what was going to happen. USF athletic director Doug Woolard said he would now begin to evaluate the program and didn't want to comment any further.
"I would like to be back," Holtz reiterated. "There has been a lot of hard work and there is a lot of young tal
ent on the field, but I understand the hard position we put a lot of people in with the record we have. I understand the nature of this business is to win games. They don't care if you are on your fourth quarterback or how many freshman you are playing."
Despite his 2-12 Big East Conference record the past two years, Holtz earned $2 million per season and will continue to do so for the next five years, which has created ire among fans as much as the losses.
He is the second highest paid coach in the conference though he has the worst league record over the last two years. He earns a good amount above the average $1.64 million salary among big-time college football programs according to USA Today.
There have been 12 FBS head coaches fired this season and more than a few had better years than Holtz. Fans, former players and many donors to the USF football program have been clamoring for his dismissal.
It will cost USF $2.5 million to fire him and that reportedly can be paid over a five year period. If USF considers itself a major college football program it must open its wallet. And if you do the math in dwindling attendance it will stop the drain on its coffers.
It will be money well spent because whatever you think of Holtz this is a crucial time for college athletics. The Big East Conference is crumbling and will soon look like Conference USA, a nice group of football teams that just don't belong with the big boys.
It will hurt recruiting and the downward spiral could have long term ramifications.
This could be the 1929 stock market crash reincarnated with fans jumping off the good ship USF and its leader Commander Phillip Francis Queeg Holtz.
When USF bolted C-USA and joined what was the old Big East in 2005 it was a time for celebration.
The Bulls were even snug about leaving C-USA, but now they are crawling back along with the rest of the Big East schools that missed the last train out of town.
But Cincinnati and Connecticut figure to get an invite to one of the BCS conferences before USF if expansion continues.
UCF could even move ahead of USF after next season when they renew their series.
The Big 12 doesn't want USF and if FSU was somehow able to get into that conference and leave the ACC the Bulls don't have anything to sell.
It has the Tampa Bay TV market, but the football program is not relevant right now. Apathy has a stranglehold on USF and will suffocate if changes are not made.
This was the year for things to go right and all went wrong.
The Bulls had 25 returning seniors, including 15 starters. They were picked by many to win the Big East and at worse be a serious contender. Instead they finished in the league cellar for the second straight season.
There is nothing to make anyone think next season will be any better.
And this just in!
UCF accepted an invitation to this year's St. Petersburg Bowl. USF is bowl ineligible for the second straight year.