Only the width of a football field separated Skip Holtz and Randy Shannon. But in reality, they were light years apart.
Shannon and his Miami football team have been in a four-year freefall he can’t stop, while Holtz is climbing the ladder to a sky that has no ceiling since taking over at USF.
Miami is living in the past while USF is looking at the future.
The U in Miami these days stands for Unforgiving, while USF is a nice acronym for Until we See the Future.
When Holtz looked at the other side of the field Saturday, he saw a place where he doesn’t want to go and a person he doesn’t want to be. He saw a program in disarray and a coach who is trying to outswim the sharks.
Planes circled Sun Life Stadium with signs reading “Fire Shannon.” Websites calling for the same clog the internet.
After USF’s 23-20 victory Saturday, things will only get worse for Shannon and a whole lot better for Holtz.
Compared to the beleaguered Shannon, Holtz’s life is a Utopia. He can do no wrong. His personality is a marked improvement over Jim Leavitt, whose best halftime strategy was often seeing how much blood he could get to run down his forehead by smashing his head into a player’s helmet.
Holtz is being compared to Leavitt in a matchup he can’t lose. Shannon is compared to Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson, Butch Davis and even Larry Coker in a battle he can’t win.
It’s gotten so bad for Shannon that he makes Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra seem safe in his job.
The anti-Shannon folks have a cache of ammunition, starting with the records of the coaches who preceded him: Schnellenberger (41-16), Johnson (52-9), Erickson (63-9), Davis (51-20) and Coker (60-15).
Randy Shannon is 28-22.
The only thing Holtz had to do to surpass Leavitt was beat Cincinnati and Louisville on the road and he threw in a kicker, ending the Bulls’ four-game losing streak against Rutgers.
Now, he added another prize with the program’s first win over Miami after two losses.
The big thing Holtz was missing heading into Saturday’s game was competition at quarterback, and he has it now with the emergence of true freshman Bobby Eveld.
After the way Eveld performed Saturday, Holtz no longer has to watch helplessly as B.J. Daniels can’t orchestrate the game plan and makes throws that you are not supposed to see from a quarterback with his experience.
Right now Holtz has the best of all worlds. If his Bulls would’ve lost, everyone would’ve seen it as a victory with a novice freshman quarterback taking his team into overtime.
Shannon couldn’t win. He had to beat the Bulls handily to keep the wolves off his back, and now they can spell blood.
Shannon has lost the support of many former players, with local hero Randall Hill recently telling the media that Shannon makes a better defensive coordinator and recruiter than he does a head coach.
The announced turnstile crowd at Sun Life Stadium of 26,369 was the lowest to see a Miami home game since Coker coached his last game before he was fired. An omen?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and what looks ugly to college football fans on the East Coast of Florida looks like a Da Vinci masterpiece to those living on the other side of the state.
This was the Irrelevant Bowl to Miami fans and a signature victory to those who follow the 14-year-old USF football program.
Holtz is a media darling so full of quotes you have to think his dad Lou filled his mind with bedtime stories he could shower on the press when he grew up to become a football coach.
Holtz refused to speculate on whether he has a quarterback controversy now that Eveld has proven his worth, but he did have this to say about the freshman.
“I felt if Bobby was going to bite you, he was going to do it as a pup,” Holtz said. “In overtime I called that double slant that set up the winning touchdown and thought to myself, what are you thinking? You have a freshman quarterback and you are going to throw the ball over the middle. I said on the headsets this was a stupid call. Then Joel Miller catches it and we win (one play later), and it’s the best call of the day. Bobby is a fantastic young man.”