Skipping to His Own Beat
by Brian North

When Skip Holtz took over as head coach at ECU, he had a lot of work to do. The Pirates had won just three times in the previous two seasons (2003-04), and morale was at an all time low. But Holtz brought enthusiasm and a game plan, and it has worked out pretty well. East Carolina is bowl eligible in Holtz' second season, and are in contention for the school's first Conference USA Championship in 10 years.

This season, its seems like Holtz has the touch of gold. Everything he does and says has worked. I asked him about his ability to read his team and know which buttons to push to get the best results from his players. He said "there's a lot of things I learned from former employers Bobby Bowden, Earl Bruce, and Lou Holtz who had been around the game a long time. They are three college hall of fame coaches and they adapted and they adjusted when they went through tough situations, and I benefited from being around them."

Holtz says he also uses those coaches as sounding boards and picks up the phone when he has tough situations to deal with like senior day. Holtz also added "the things you didn't pick up because you weren't observant enough when you were an assistant coach, you learn by fire. This is my seventh year as a head coach, and there are some things you only learn by sitting in that chair, because you can be an assistant your whole life but it doesn't prepare you for the amount of decisions you have to make as a head coach."

Holtz also has the benefit of having been a head coach in a building situation. Skip took over at UCONN in 1994 and built the Huskies into a 1-AA power and set the foundation for the team to move to 1-A. "Building the program and getting your players to really make a commitment to turn the thing around is one thing, but getting them to understand how to handle winning and everything that comes with that; the media distractions, the fan distractions and the way you become popular on campus and everybody is telling you how great you are, but you still have to keep the mentality that we are trying to build this program and to stay focused on the practice field. That's why we keep the humble and hungry attitude and want to go 1-0."

Holtz realizes you never really arrive in college football, you just try to scratch your way to the top, but it's tougher to stay there. The Pirates are enjoying the climb, but are not there yet. But if anyone can push the right buttons to get his team there, it seems to be that Holtz has that magic touch.
Brian North