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Trib: USF's Holtz has a special role model


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USF's Holtz has a special role model

By SCOTT CARTER

scarter@tampatrib.com

They don't really look alike. Those who know them best say the two outgoing men are very different personalities at their core. And when it comes to football, Skip Holtz and his dad, Lou, don't always see eye to eye.

It has been that way since Skip told his father he planned to become a football coach while eating a meal at a Chinese restaurant in South Bend, Ind., nearly 25 years ago.

"We had our battles," said Skip, referring mostly to the stints he served as an assistant on his father's staffs at Notre Dame (1990-93) and South Carolina (1999-2004). "He used to say: 'The difference between you and me is that I don't think you have to throw it one time in order to win.' I think you've got to have more balance."

Whatever their differences with a headset on, Skip and Lou Holtz share the same values off the field, which is largely why Holtz uprooted his family after five successful seasons at East Carolina to become the second coach in University of South Florida history in January.

Since arriving in Tampa, Skip has talked repeatedly about the importance family played in his decision. His father and mother, Beth, live in the Orlando area. Brother Kevin lives in Daytona Beach. Holtz's wife, Jennifer, is from Port Charlotte, where her parents still live, and Jennifer's brother Scott lives in Tampa.

In an era when big-time college football coaches struggle to find the proper balance between work and family to maintain their health and their closest relationships, Skip Holtz has been more successful than most.

His 73-year-old father is the primary reason.

"Skip and his father are similar in the way they view life and what's important," said Todd Fitch, USF offensive coordinator and longtime friend of the Holtz family. "They treat people the right way."

Family comes first

This isn't the first time Skip has changed career paths in large part because of family reasons. After four seasons on his father's staff at Notre Dame, Skip took over the fledgling Division I-AA program at Connecticut and turned the Huskies into consistent winners.

Viewed as an up-and-comer in coaching circles, many thought Holtz would take over a Division I program after leaving UConn. Instead, Skip became offensive coordinator at South Carolina, a move that cost him money and power and delayed his ascension through the coaching ranks.

Still, he believed the move was important for the family after his mother developed throat cancer.

"It meant a great deal to me, and more importantly to my wife," Lou Holtz said. "The fact that he was willing to up and leave a job he had done a nice job at ... to uproot his three children and his family so that he could be with his mother and the children could get to know their grandmother, I mean, that had a very positive effect on my wife.

"I think it's a major reason why she's still with us today."

When discussing the influence his father has had on him, Skip cites the Golden Rule - treat others as you would want to be treated - as the greatest lesson his father taught him. He uses that as a guiding principle in dealing with players, coaches, administrators and fans.

"He has been a great guiding tool for me," Skip said of his father. "It would be foolish not to use a sounding board like that."

Making his own name

Lou Holtz retired from coaching in 2004, finishing his 33-year college career with 249 victories. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008 and works as a TV analyst for ESPN.

On Saturdays in the fall, Holtz is paid to entertain and play it straight on-air. Off the air, there's not much doubt around the ESPN studios about who is Holtz's favorite coach.

"On camera, Lou is the consummate professional," said fellow ESPN analyst Jesse Palmer. "He's very neutral. But otherwise, he's proud of his son. He should be. His son is building quite a career in college football."

In 11 seasons as a head coach - six at UConn and five at East Carolina - Skip is 72-50, including Conference USA titles in his final two seasons at East Carolina.

Holtz's hiring at USF immediately raised expectations for the program. Some of that is from his track record. Some of it is because of the name recognition he brings to town. Those expectations have followed Skip since that conversation with his dad all those years ago in that Chinese restaurant near the Notre Dame campus.

"Skip has probably had a harder task than the average person would," Lou said. "Many people would think he's there because he's Lou Holtz's son. That was a big myth that he had to get off his back."

As Skip prepares for the latest chapter in his coaching career, he plans to make sure Lou is part of the journey. He invited his dad to address the USF team during spring practice, and he plans to have another visit when fall camp starts.

The two usually talk on the phone at least a couple of times a week. The discussions range from the latest motivational techniques to offensive schemes, from how the kids are adjusting to their new schools to Beth's latest hobby.

That has been the Holtz way for as long as Skip can remember.

"He's taught me so much about life and football," Skip said. "He was a great role model for me growing up and still is today."

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Skipanator is going to do amazing things at USF.  He is truly an ambassador for the program and leads like a CEO.

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If Skip avoids personal potholes, he will achieve very significant things and will likely be a big winner on the field as well.  USF is very fortunate that such an ugly chapter has turned out so well.

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If Skip avoids personal potholes, he will achieve very significant things and will likely be a big winner on the field as well.  USF is very fortunate that such an ugly chapter has turned out so well.

Agree 100% -- we're very lucky we didn't end up with somebody none of us had ever heard of.

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"In an era when big-time college football coaches struggle to find the proper balance between work and family to maintain their health and their closest relationships, Skip Holtz has been more successful than most."

Nice shot at UF lol. 

In Skip We Trust!!!  He will do amazing things for USF and I cant wait to witness it!!

GO Bulls

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Cool with Skip... Still wish we would have gone after the pirate... It'd be awesome watching Mike Leach calling plays from a mast off the ship!

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Cool with Skip... Still wish we would have gone after the pirate... It'd be awesome watching Mike Leach calling plays from a mast off the ship!

Hiring Mike Leach after the Leavitt scandal would have been a PR disaster. 

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