Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE
When the Tribune columnist gets you in the crosshairs, you know it's getting ugly.
I haven't been the biggest fan of Tampa Tribune columnist Martin Fennelly's work over the years. (He was the subject of the one and only fisking in the history of this blog.) He's about as mainstream as mainstream gets, and he knows how to get out in front of a parade... or a funeral procession, if things are going wrong. Which makes the column he wrote about USF in Saturday's Tribune even more unsettling if you're Skip Holtz. And maybe even more so if you're Doug Woolard, who has mostly gone unchallenged in the local media ever since the storm clouds started forming over the USF football program.
Here's what you do if you're Skip Holtz: You beat UConn and then beat someone else, Miami, Cincinnati or Pitt. You can survive at 4-8.
Or, at the very least, you beat UConn, then don't lose the other three games like you've been losing them. You don't give up your ghost at the end. Even that would stand, albeit it one leg, as improvement.
Then your athletic director crawls out from under his desk, stops issuing statements by e-mail and says you're his man, even at 3-9, that three years is not enough time (though 8-5 to 5-7 to this shows a definite pattern) and that these aren't Holtz's juniors and seniors.
In other words, USF athletic director Doug Woolard, no hanging judge by any stretch, needs to man up and attach his future to Holtz's. That's the only thing that will work at 3-9 - saying you believe Skip Holtz was and is your guy and you believe it so much you'll go down with the ship, you and your own hefty salary, if Holtz sinks. Courage, Douglas - it's game time.
Maybe there's a little bit of professional animosity since the only interview Woolard has given since everything went to hell was on Times columnist Gary Shelton's radio show a few weeks ago. But other than that... "crawls out from under his desk (and) stops issuing statements by e-mail" is the first swing we've seen a traditional media member take at the USF athletic director. Then in the next paragraph, mentioning Doug's own "hefty salary," which is well over half a million dollars at this point, littered with bonuses that ride the coattails of coaches he may not have even hired himself, and not at all in line with the athletic budget or USF's on-field accomplishments.
The only quibble I have with the story is the part about Doug needing to back up Holtz and attaching his future to the coach. Didn't he already do that by giving him that contract extension back in July, before Skip had earned it? Would the heat be anywhere near as high if Doug had been prudent and waited another year to see what happened? Personally, that has me much more upset than a failing head coach. Not every hire is going to work out. But you have to get away from your mistakes as soon as possible, and Woolard made that much harder to do.
So... um... go Bulls!