Is Holtz headed to Syracuse? Don’t be surprised

Published 2:08 pm Friday, December 5, 2008

By Staff
Commentary By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
It’s silly season in college football once again.
That time of year when coaches ponder their future, start flirting with big name schools and dart before their team heads to a bowl game.
And this year, East Carolina may not be immune.
After resurrecting the Pirates’ lifeless program in his four years at the helm, East Carolina coach Skip Holtz is a hot commodity in the coaching world.
The latest rumor links Holtz to the Syracuse post which was vacated a few weeks ago when the Orange dismissed Greg Robinson from his duties.
In my eyes, it makes perfect sense.
Syracuse is in search of a coach that has strong ties to the Northeast. In recent years, the Orange has struggled to land recruits from New Jersey (they head to Rutgers now) and Connecticut (they stay in-state and go to UConn). Those areas were once a hotbed for the Orange’s storied program.
Syracuse wants a coach that has a strong rapport with local high school coaches in those states in hopes of luring recruits back to Central New York.
Check. Holtz spent five years as the head coach at the University of Connecticut and has strong ties to a lot of high school coaches.
Syracuse, which went 10-36 in Robinson’s four years as coach, also would like someone with a proven track record of rebuilding a program.
Check. Look no further than the job Holtz has done in Greenville. Holtz inherited a team that was 3-20 in two seasons under former coach John Thompson.
The Pirates won five games in Holtz’s first season, and in year two, the 44-year old coach led East Carolina back to a bowl game for the first time in five seasons. Last season, Holtz led ECU to eight wins and a bowl victory for the first time since 2000.
This season, he’s done even better, becoming the first C-USA coach to lead his team to back-to-back wins over Top 25 teams (the Pirates actually won three straight). He also guided ECU to the C-USA East Division title, despite injuries to 22 members of the two-deep depth chart.
Syracuse also would like to attract a big-name coach to help spark interest on the national recruiting trail.
Check. Is there any bigger surname in college football than Holtz? His dad is a coaching legend, who calls Skip “the best coach in the family.”
From Holtz’s standpoint, the Syracuse job has to be attractive as well.
The Orange are from a BCS Conference, they have a long and rich tradition, and they have a lot more money to throw at a new coach.
Heck, I’d be interested, too.
While a lot of coaches have adamantly denied their interest in the Syracuse job, Holtz has been relatively mum.
“It’s not (a distraction),” said Holtz of the rumors. “I’m focused on what we’ve got to get done here. I’ve talked all season long about keeping your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. Right now, my focus is on helping this program win its first conference title since 1976.”
Athletic Director Terry Holland released a statement on the issue Thursday.
Holland said that Holtz hasn’t approached him about interviewing anywhere, but also noted that he won’t stand in the way if Holtz wishes to do so.
Don’t be surprised if Holtz trades his purple and gold cap for an orange and blue one. No matter how bad Syracuse is right now, it’s a great opportunity for Holtz. An opportunity that may be too good to pass on.