Will Holtz Jump Ship?
by Eric Gilmore

A man with the Holtz surname delivered the sagest advice of the football season during the halftime of the ECU’s tilt with West Virginia.

On ESPN’s national broadcast, the floppy eared Lou, with his bifocals properly adjusted told halftime host Linda Cohn in his distinctive lisp ‘that he will soon be remembered as Skip’s dad.’

Lou Holtz, winner of 249 games, may have had a hint of bias in his voice, but with his son’s 7-5 record in his second year at ECU, he looks more like a prophet than a 160-pound coaching legend.

As an unemployed quarterbacks coach, Skip Holtz entered into a ‘cheap’ marriage with a once proud program, struggling for a shade of stability. John Thompson’s ship wreck had produced two embarrassing seasons, culminating in ECU’s 52-14 loss in Charlotte to N.C. State.

Two years later, Skip Holtz’s revamped Pirates defeated N.C. State 21-16 in enemy territory to down the same program that his father once coached. It resulted in N.C. State’s seventh straight loss, severing Chuck Amato from continuing to coach his alma mater.

With success comes opportunity. In the win-now-or-get-fired coaching profession, the promotions and demotions happen at a multiplied rate. For struggling universities, saviors come in the form of younger, up-and-coming coaches. For Skip Holtz, who has a 46-34 collegiate record in seven seasons, his charisma and ‘name brand’ make him a marquee name with athletic directors looking to fill coaching vacancies.

For proud programs like Arizona St, Miami, Alabama and nearby N.C. State, mediocrity is unacceptable. The administrators prescribe to the ‘grass is always greener on the other side’ theory. But that green usually just translates to money, which screams louder than any fan.

A contract extension and lifetime contract may be the popular choice to secure Holtz down for the long-term, but ECU Athletic Director Terry Holland doesn’t seem to be ready to award a seven figure deal.

“We will eventually lose some staff members,” said Holland, who labeled the quandary as a “good one.” I think we’ve done a great job, particularly in the college environment of hanging onto them so far. We’re going to do everything we can to hang on them until they have a great opportunity to do something at a higher level.”

Holtz, who said that neither he nor a member of his staff anticipates receiving calls from other programs, isn’t politicking for jobs. 

“There’s a lot of merit to having the opportunity to build a program,” said Holtz, citing his tough decision to leave the University of Connecticut to be closer to his sick mother.

“I would like to have the opportunity to win a national championship and coach for 20 more years because it’s a profession that I love to do.”

Holtz considers himself a “mut” having moved so much as a coach’s son. Even though he wants to prevent the same burden on his three children, his goals and salary demand will likely soon outgrow ECU’s reach.

Asked if ECU can win and fulfill his national championship goals, Holtz replied candidly, “in the present state, not being in the BCS, probably not.”

Eric Gilmore