Familiar chatter to modern college football has already begun. And unless results improve quickly for the University of South Florida, pressure on the team's embattled head coach will only mount as the disappointing 2012 season continues.
With the South Florida Bulls having reached the bye week of their 2012 schedule with an embarrassing 2-4 record, questions about the performance of 3rd year head coach Skip Holtz have increased. Though frustrated fans invariably demand such changes when a team is losing, this situation may prove more tricky.
After 4 over-achieving seasons guiding East Carolina, Holtz was previously viewed as a rising star. USF signed the 2nd generation coach in 2010 with hopes that his famous name would bring credibility to the program, following the untimely dismissal of Jim Leavitt for off-the-field reasons.
Since that time, the 48 year-old has posted a 15-16 record, while competing in the underwhelming Big East. Furthermore, in 2011, the team wasted a 4-0 start by dropping 7 of their final 8 contests to finish last in the conference and failed to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 2004.
Despite such under-performance, South Florida mystifying gave Holtz a 3 year contract extension during the off-season. Already signed through 2014, USF now owes their coach nearly $2 million per season through the 2017 campaign. In defending the much-maligned business decision, Athletic Director Doug Woolard recently cited outside interest in Holtz and the need for "stability and continuity of leadership."
But what about the need for results? Apparently, that's not as much of a concern -- yet.
Fortunately, the contract does contain a buyout clause, but the penalty for firing Holtz prematurely is a hefty $2.5 million. If the 2012 season collapses and the pressure to make a change grows too powerful to resist, South Florida must pay Holtz $2.5 million not to coach this disappointing team.
Then the school would need to find similar money to replace Holtz with a new leader, who will be tasked with the challenge of rebuilding a losing program.
Though such events may resemble a doomsday scenario for a program with lofty ambitions just 1 year ago, reality indicates the need for drastic change may become likely.
With a 37-28 loss to Temple on October 6, the Bulls have dropped 4 consecutive games. Such lengthy losing streaks have come to characterize Holtz's team and increase concerns that the 48 year-old may not be the right man for the job. After all, the Bulls were seemingly unable to stop any offensive efforts of Temple -- an opponent that featured far less talent and intimidatingly competed in its very first Big East contest.
The task only turns more difficult for South Florida, as the club enters the heart of its conference schedule. Next up, the Bulls travel to meet the 16th ranked Louisville Cardinals on October 20th in a game that may represent the last chance to salvage the 2012 season.
An upset of the Big East's best team may temporarily quiet some of that chatter. Yet, if the Bulls fall to 2-5, it is difficult to see a scenario where they can avoid a second consecutive losing season, since arduous road games remain against Miami and Cincinnati.
Skip Holtz cannot be directly blamed for coaching blunders. Additionally, his recruiting has generally been praised. And Holtz himself has noted how the team has only failed to play competitively in 1 game during the past year.
Yet, somehow the total picture nearly always falls short for South Florida. With 4 year starting quarterback B.J. Daniels competing in his final season, the future does not look bright. Defensive stalwarts Sam Barrington and Kayvon Webster are seniors, as is featured running back Demetris Murray. Meanwhile, few underclassmen have stepped up during this disappointing campaign.
Woolard surely regrets the 4 month-old decision to extend the contract of Skip Holtz over the summer. Though USF hoped to bring stability, the contractual status of an embattled head coach only makes the forthcoming decision even more turbulent.
Yahoo! Sports, ESPN.com, TampaBay.com.
More by Jeff Briscoe from Yahoo! Contributor Network:
Jeff Briscoe is a writer who covers sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. A USF Bulls fan, he co-hosts the Florida-based radio show, The Sports Train.
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