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HOW DO I FOOTBALL: The Increasingly Poor Decisions Of Skip Holtz

A three-act play starring former USF and current Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz, and assorted others.

This pose looks familiar.
This pose looks familiar.
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Act I

We all watched Act I. That was the part where Skip Holtz, as USF's coach, took a promising football program and single-handedly ripped it apart with lame recruiting, poor team management, awful in-game decisions, and a complete lack of urgency and accountability. If we're lucky, it will only take a few years to recover from the damage. Of course, this all happened while conference realignment was going on, and most of USF's best competition left the league and moved on to better leagues and much more money while they got stuck behind in the American. So it's possible they won't ever totally recover.

In the middle of this three-year swindle, Doug Woolard decided to give Skip a contract extension, claiming to protect him from interest from other schools that had not materialized in months, if ever. Then when Woolard had to fire Skip LESS THAN SIX MONTHS LATER, it meant USF had to pay him $500,000 per year not to coach for the next five years. Woolard did not cover himself in glory here, either, but at least he got away from Skip before any more damage was done.

Act II

Last year Louisiana Tech had this athletic director, Bruce Van De Velde. They also had an immensely exciting football team, coached by Sonny Dykes with help from Tony Franklin. Perhaps you remember that crazy 59-57 game they played against Texas A&M in Shreveport, where they went toe-to-toe with Johnny Football, rallied from a 33-7 deficit, and nearly came out victorious.

Louisiana Tech went 9-3 and had the #1 offense in the country. They should have gone to a bowl. But they didn't, possibly because Van De Velde was too stubborn to allow them to play Louisiana-Monroe in the Independence Bowl. (The comments on that link are fun.) Van De Velde's version of the story was different, but either way, he didn't get the job done and his football team stayed home.

After that, Dykes took the California job. It probably would have happened regardless of the bowl debacle, although that couldn't have helped matters. (Dykes came out publicly as being upset about his team not bowling.) With 31 seniors on the 2012 team, whoever replaced Dykes was going to have to do some rebuilding. For some reason, though, Van De Velde picked Skip Holtz.

Had he watched Holtz just spend three years imploding a program that had been at a similar developmental point? Did he think about the players who had been recruited to play in an Air Raid offense that doesn't match Skip's coaching personality? (They had Texas Tech transfer Scotty Young, with three years of tutelage in the Air Raid system, set to start at quarterback.) Did he think about what kind of comedown this would be for Louisiana Tech's fans? Did he think at all?

In a possibly related story: Van De Velde stepped down as athletic director in June.


Louisiana Tech opened up the 2013 season by getting clobbered at NC State and looking pretty listless in the process. They held off FCS Lamar in their home opener. Then Tulane came to town last night.

The Green Wave have been terrible for a decade. Their invitation to the American was widely seen as some kind of sick joke. Their quarterback is Nick Montana, who washed out at Washington and spent last year in junior college at some place called Mt. San Antonio College. Last year they went 2-10. The year before that, 2-11. They haven't given up less than 400 points in a season since 2007. By any measuring stick, they are abysmal.

They hung with Louisiana Tech in the first half, trailing just 9-7. Then they took the lead and started pulling away in the second half. First, there was a 3rd and 24 for Tulane at the Bulldogs 38-yard line. Louisiana Tech had just accepted a 15-yard chop block penalty on Tulane because it knocked them out of field goal range. Then their slot receiver Xavier Rush ran a 10-yard slant, the DB gambled to try and intercept it for some insane reason, and Rush took it all the way for a touchdown. That made the score 17-9.

Meanwhile, Louisiana Tech was down to freshman quarterback Ryan Higgins, because Scotty Young left with an injury after going 9-for-28 in the first half. The play-calling turned very conservative. At some point in the third quarter, after first and second-down runs lost five yards each, the crowd started booing.

In the fourth quarter, Tulane sacked Higgins and recovered his fumble at the Louisiana Tech 1-yard line, and punched it in for a 24-9 lead. After that, the Bulldogs finally got their act together and drove down the field for a touchdown with 3:54 to play. The score was 24-15. Twenty-four to fifteen. Louisiana Tech was trailing by nine points. It should have been a one-possession game after the extra point.

Skip Holtz went for two. It failed.

I was watching this all unfold on TV. After Louisiana Tech scored I thought, "Man I hope Skip does something really stupid and goes for two, because I would die laughing." AND HE DID IT. HE TURNED A ONE-POSSESSION GAME INTO A TWO-POSSESSION GAME. SKIP SINGLE-HANDEDLY CHOKED OUT HIS OWN TEAM'S COMEBACK.

Now you're wondering, how could Skip make this even worse? Louisiana Tech had all three timeouts and 3:54 left. There was plenty of time to kick deep, get a stop, get the ball back, score again, and then try an onside kick. (Which might not have been needed if he'd kicked the PAT like a sane person and made it a one-score game in the first place.)

Skip Holtz called for an onside kick. It failed.

Tulane ran out the entire clock with nine straight runs.

I've documented all the idiotic in-game decisions Skip made in his USF career. To name just a few, there was the "I was not willing to roll the dice" game. The stupidity against Louisville. The clock snafu and the two Sad Field Goals against Miami. The give-up PAT against Cincinnati. And the Sad Field Goal against Pittsburgh. He constantly makes terrible, terrible strategic decisions. But that two-point attempt and onside kick last night were, back-to-back, the two dumbest decisions I think I've ever seen a head coach make. If, as Matt Hinton suggested should happen to Lane Kiffin, there was ever a time for an athletic director to order security guards to storm the sideline, forcibly remove the coach, and escort him out of the stadium in the middle of a game, that was it.

Collin has been joking about how someone affiliated with USF should sue Skip Holtz and try to reclaim his $2.5 million buyout for not acting in good faith. I'm wondering if Louisiana Tech should join that lawsuit. The guy appears to be completely gone, and he's well on his way to stealing Louisiana Tech's money just as badly as he stole USF's money.