ECU’s Holtz turns down Syracuse
MEMPHIS, Tenn. ó East Carolina coach Skip Holtz issued a statement through his athletic department Thursday saying that he has withdrawn his name from consideration to become the new head football coach at Syracuse.
He tried to limit his comments about the matter to that statement and instead focus on the Pirates’ Jan. 2 date with Kentucky in the Liberty Bowl during an afternoon press conference promoting the game.
But before that could happen, ECU athletic director Terry Holland addressed Holtz and the Auburn coaching vacancy. Holland said there has been “absolutely no contact” from Auburn asking for permission to talk to Holtz.
“Everyone wants to talk about (coaching changes) in the blogs and chat rooms, and it develops into a media frenzy,” Holtz said. “It gives fans something to do from that last game to bowl time. But for us, this is all about the Liberty Bowl and what we’ve tried to do as two football teams who will receive a great reward for two hard-fought seasons.”
It’s the first nine-win season for the Pirates since 1999 and their first league title since winning the Southern Conference in 1976.
“This is what we, and every team in Conference USA, talk about in January each year, the road going to Memphis,” said Holtz, whose 9-4 Pirates earned the Liberty Bowl berth by beating host Tulsa 27-24 for the C-USA title last week. “That’s the focus for us, and we’re honored to finally get this opportunity.”
After the win against Tulsa, Holtz discussed the Syracuse job with university officials. WITN-TV in nearby Washington reported that Holtz had been offered a $12 million deal to take the Syracuse job, left open by the firing of Greg Robinson.
Holtz said Thursday “we certainly did not try to hide it or do anything undercover. We were very straightforward with Coach Holland and everyone” about the Syracuse job.
In the statement released Thursday, he said he was “simply too focused on our preparations and many other of our short- and long-term goals to fairly evaluate what I feel is a promising situation at Syracuse.”
Kentucky coach Rich Brooks, whose Wildcat lost their last three games to finish 6-6, understands first-hand what Holtz is going through. Brooks was an assistant in UCLA’s 1976 Liberty Bowl loss to Alabama. A day later, he took over the head coaching job at Oregon.
“Whether you are an assistant coach or a head coach, that kind of thing is always a distraction you have to deal with when you’re a hot commodity, and there isn’t any question Skip Holtz is a hot commodity in the coaching profession,” said Brooks, who played for Oregon State in the 1962 Liberty Bowl. “The (season-opening) wins over Virginia Tech and West Virginia were remarkable, and to get seven takeaways and limit the best offense in the country to 24 points was just outstanding.
“Now Skip’s got to deal with the consequences. But those are pretty good consequences.”
Holtz is looking forward to one bit of unfinished business in Memphis.
“I was here for the game in 1973 when my dad (Lou) was coaching at North Carolina State,” Holtz said. “They were getting ready to go to Graceland. My mom thought that wasn’t a good opportunity for a 10-year-old boy. She kept selling me on seeing the tigers at the Memphis Zoo.
“The team goes to Graceland, Elvis is home and gives them a personally guided tour, all the while I’m pitching peanuts to the tigers at the Memphis Zoo. We’re going to Graceland.”