USF fires Skip Holtz after 3 seasons


TAMPA, Fla. — Skip Holtz was fired as South Florida’s football coach after two straight losing seasons in which the program fell back instead of progressed.

Athletic director Doug Woolard made the announcement Sunday after meeting with Holtz individually and then accompanying the former coach to a gathering with players. A search for a replacement will begin immediately, with no definitive timetable for naming the successor.

“It was a very difficult meeting and one I will tell you that Skip handled very professionally and very classy, as he always does,” Woolard said during a news conference.

“It was a matter of just not having the production that we needed to have over the last couple of years on the field. … Every program experiences highs and lows on the way to national prominence,” Woolard added. “Brighter days are ahead.”

The son of former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz went 16-21 at the Big East school, concluding a three-year run with the worst season in school history. The Bulls lost nine of 10 to finish 3-9, 1-6 in the conference, following a 2-0 start.

The firing came a year after Holtz was given a contract extension through 2017 despite going 5-7 in his second season. He will receive a $2.5 million buyout paid over five years.

In a statement released by USF, Holtz thanked his assistant coaches and players for their dedication and loyalty.

“I’m extremely proud of how they fought through adversity during this time. Throughout my time here the young men on this team never gave up, and that reflects on their character as individuals and as a team,” Holtz said.

“I believe we made some positive strides, most notably in our academics, that were helping to build a foundation for this program, and I would have liked the opportunity to see it through,” the coach added. “But I understand the administration’s decision and wish them nothing but success in the future.”

Holtz inherited a program that Jim Leavitt built from scratch, signing a $9.1 million, five-year contract in January 2010 after Leavitt was fired for mistreating a player who had accused the former coach of grabbing him by the throat and slapping him in the face during halftime of a game.

The 48-year-old Holtz came to USF from East Carolina, where he had guided the Pirates to a pair of Conference USA championships. He welcomed the challenge of stepping into the Big East and trying to transform the Bulls, ranked as high as No. 2 in the country in 2007, into an elite program.

But it did not happen.