01/15/10 — ECU losing quality head coach

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ECU losing quality head coach

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 15, 2010 1:46 PM

East Carolina has lost its captain. Skip Holtz officially logged his resignation at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, ending 24 hours of speculation that he would become the new head football coach at USF.

Each of the past three seasons, universities nationwide have attempted to lure the 45-year-old Holtz from navigating Pirate waters. Each time he opted to stay with his ship and mold his band of players into Conference USA champions -- not once, but twice.

A charismatic individual who made you believe you could succeed despite any situation, Holtz recorded 38 victories and ambushed several top 25 programs during his tenure in Greenville. ECU captured two CUSA East Division titles and made four bowl appearances.

Choking back tears, Holtz said his decision involved family. He and his wife's parents reside in the south Florida area, and Holtz felt they could not pass up the opportunity to live closer to their folks. Holtz's contract at ECU runs through 2013 and has a $100,000 buyout.

Pirates athletics director Terry Holland has not announced an interim head coach and will address the media today. Holtz's successor will become the 20th head coach in ECU history since 1932.

"Skip and his family have transformed our expectations of ourselves and our athletic program while contributing to every aspect of our community," said Holland on the ECU athletics Website late Thursday evening. "They will be missed, but have provided ECU with a solid foundation for future success. It will be up to us to build on that foundation.

"There has never been any doubt in my mind that the Pirate Nation is the strength of our future, and coach Holtz helped increase the numbers significantly."

Holtz's decision disappoints me, but there is no bitterness. In an era of lucrative TV contracts that fuel BCS conferences, you can't blame him for leaving ECU. He replaces Jim Leavitt, who was fired last week for alledgedly striking a player.

Holtz revived a program that floundered for two seasons with John Thompson. He rejuvenated a Pirate Nation that supported the team at home and on the road, regardless the opponent.

Whoever comes aboard, has a big task.

The new skipper faces the challenge of getting the crew -- coaching staff and players -- to buy into his system, which is something Holtz had little trouble experiencing. The new captain must have a "no-nonsense" approach to discipline and make sure the players are accountable for their actions -- on and off the field.

And the new captain must steer the ship through a challenging 2010 schedule that includes eight CUSA battles, road games at Virginia Tech and UNC, and home contests against the U.S. Naval Academy and N.C. State.

Let's hope Holland finds a captain to sail the ship in a positive manner.