It has been quite a while since Louisiana Tech fans received good news. But on Friday afternoon, things changed for the better.
According to a report by Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, Louisiana Tech has hired former South Florida head coach Skip Holtz to be the Bulldogs' new head man.
The hire comes just a couple of weeks after a slew of events devastated the faithful in Ruston. First, the team was denied a berth in any postseason bowl game after finishing the season 9-3. Then, head coach Sonny Dykes left for greener pastures by agreeing to take the vacant head coaching spot at California.
It appeared that the 2010 WAC Champions would be facing an uphill climb to make it back to relevance in the coming years.
The hiring of Holtz should give those fans new hope. Despite struggling at South Florida, Holtz has had a pretty decent track record as head coach of smaller schools.
At his first head coaching stop in Connecticut, Holtz compiled a 34-23 record while guiding the Huskies to the 1998 1-AA quarterfinals. After that season, Holtz accepted his first head coaching position in the FBS ranks at East Carolina.
It was as head coach of the Pirates that Holtz experienced the most success.
In his five seasons in Greenville, Holtz led East Carolina to four bowl games and finished worse than second in the Conference USA East Division only once. He compiled a 38-27 overall record while leading his teams to a 28-12 conference record.
This is good news for Louisiana Tech, which makes the move from the dissolving WAC conference to Conference USA starting next season.
In addition to a strong showing in Conference USA, Holtz’s East Carolina teams were known for causing problems for many power-conferences foes. In 2008 alone, the Pirates knocked off No. 17 Virginia Tech and No. 8 West Virginia en route to a Conference USA Championship Game berth.
Due to his success with East Carolina, Holtz was one of the hottest coaching commodities in the country following the 2009 season. In January of 2010, Holtz accepted the South Florida job.
In Tampa, success was much harder to come by. During his three-year tenure, the Bulls would only play in one bowl game, despite being a favorite to win the conference in both 2011 and 2012. After compiling a 16-21 overall record and an ugly 5-16 Big East record, Holtz was let go.
Holtz’s struggles at South Florida should not make fans in Ruston overly skeptical of the hire. While he struggled in a major conference, Holtz has shown the ability to get the most out of his players at smaller schools.
One of the most pressing issues for Holtz right out of the gate will be attracting a batch of young players that will help the Bulldogs compete in the future.
Louisiana Tech loses 31 seniors from the 2012 team, including Sammy Baugh Award winner Colby Cameron, Ray Guy Award winner Ryan Allen and wide receiver Quinton Patton.
However, Holtz does inherit some talent from Sonny Dykes. Freshman running back Kenneth Dixon led the nation with 27 touchdowns this season, and will likely be the focal point of the offense next year. Holtz’s 2007 ECU squad was helped tremendously by a star running back, current Tennessee Titans rusher Chris Johnson.
In the end, Louisiana Tech has to be fairly pleased with the hire considering what has transpired over the past two weeks. Frankly, the school could have gotten a lot worse.
Skip Holtz’s success in Conference USA in the past signals he knows how to win at this level, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he has the Bulldogs competing for conference titles in a couple of years.
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