The Skip Holtz era ended with a thud, an inglorious ending for a good man who was just not good enough in Tampa.
He was given a solid program, and he leaves behind a losing program. The most distressing part of that statement is there should be no such thing as a losing program at USF. Not with the facilities, resources and in-state talent readily available to contend for Big East trophies every single season.
USF dropped precipitously under Holtz, sitting behind Big East newcomer Temple at the end of this season -- the most disappointing in program history. We have rehashed the shortcomings of this team over and over, but the bottom line is this: Holtz was hired to win championships. Instead, he went 5-16 in Big East play, including back-to-back last-place finishes.
So now the Bulls move on, and have got to make a home-run hire. You could say the same about any program looking for a new coach, but I believe this is especially true in Tampa. USF cannot be wowed by every big-name coach who throws his hat into the ring. The Bulls need a tireless recruiter first and foremost, somebody with deep, rich ties to the Tampa community, who can keep top talent in the Bay area from leaving without so much as a passing glance at the Bulls.
You can say what you want about the way the Big East has fallen apart, and whether that makes the head coaching job and/or program less attractive. But USF remains a program with untapped potential. There is a reason folks expect more out of the Bulls every single season: because they have a wealth of talent sitting in their backyard, with brand new facilities and an NFL stadium to call home.
If Cincinnati and Louisville can win Big East championships with rosters stocked full of Florida prospects, surely a team inside the actual state can do so.
Though back-to-back losing seasons feels like a setback, and looks like a setback, I am not sure how damaging it is to the program overall. USF rose quickly when it made the transition from FBS and has some pretty big wins in its history. The changing Big East should allow USF to rise quickly once again. Boise State and Cincinnati have rich championship traditions, but nobody else does. USF should keep that in mind as it moves forward with this search.
This is no time to panic in Tampa. All the things the Bulls have going for them are still there, despite the disappointment of the last two seasons.