My Sunday column will be put in this place a little later, but I can’t help but laud Skip Holtz and the ECU Pirates for what they’ve accomplished so far this young season.
Think about what ECU has done in its last three games, going back to the Hawaii Bowl last season — beat then-No. 22 Boise State, beat then-No. 17 Virginia Tech last week and now knock off No. 8 West Virginia. What other program has won its last three games over ranked opponents? Anybody? Anywhere? In the country?
What a job Skip Holtz has done since arriving in Greenville. To go from three wins in two years to 22 in two-plus. Amazing.
Now the Pirates, who, after a look at their schedule, are at least in the conversation for crashing the BCS party, have to find a way to keep him around for a while.
Here’s the column, which was be published in Sunday’s edition of The Herald.
Holtz is a big name now
Talk with East Carolina football coach Skip Holtz for even five minutes, and you’ll believe just about anything he says.
Pirates fans in this area probably already know that because Holtz has been to Sanford twice in the last three years to speak, and both times his talk was given to full houses at Pirate Club meetings.
He’s not his famous dad, Lou. He’s just not. But that doesn’t mean Skip is not an engaging speaker, because he is. The apple fell from the tree and it rolled a little bit, but when you listen to Skip, hear how the anecdotes are delivered, you realize that the apple at least stopped rolling within earshot of its daddy.
Besides, who is in Lou’s league up on the dais anyway?
But that’s all beside the point. Because the boy is beginning to emulate his old man in one very important way.
Holtz’s Pirates pulled off another top-25 upset on Saturday when they roughed up No. 8 West Virginia, making the Mountaineers look soft and lost in the process. It came a week after ECU surprised then-ranked Virginia Tech on a neutral field in Charlotte.
While the wins over ranked opponents are a little new to the ECU brand of football of the past few years, Pirates fans would likely tell you that keynote victories were only the next step coming under Holtz. The Pirates were 3-22 in the 25 games before Holtz came on board after being an assistant under Dad at South Carolina, but immediately began to turn the tide with a 5-6 season in 2005.
The next year, ECU was 7-6 and in a bowl game. Last season, the Pirates were 8-5 and won the Hawaii Bowl over ranked Boise State.
It was obviously a sign of things to come. How many other programs can boast that their last three victories have come over ranked opponents?
For his career, which includes a five-year head coaching stint at Connecticut, where he won a conference championship, Holtz is now 60-40. And with the two wins already this season, Holtz is 22-17 at ECU.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
But bigger days may loom ahead for the Pirates, whose remaining schedule of N.C. State, Virginia and the Conference-USA slate isn’t exactly a murderer’s row. Yes, a Nov. 2 date at Central Florida will be tough, and Southern Miss always seems to be a quality opponent.
But let’s be real. Neither of those are the caliber of a Virginia Tech or a West Virginia.
While much of college football looks west to BYU, Fresno State or Utah to potentially crash the BCS party at the end of the season, there’s now at least a solid chance that party crasher could be coming from G-Vegas, of all places.
Is that a lot to ask of Holtz and Co.? Probably. But it’s abundantly clear that Holtz has ECU much farther along in the state of North Carolina than Butch Davis does in Chapel Hill or Tom O’Brien does in Raleigh. And with Wake Forest remaining as the lone white knight in a slumping ACC, ECU is increasingly finding itself in a postition to win a lot of recruiting wars.
The season is still young, and there are still months of games left to be played.
But there is joy in Greenville.
A lot of it.
And it’s hard to say that it’s really a big surprise. After all, anybody who’s listened to Skip over the last two or three years probably believed that this was all inevitable. Just a part of the master plan.
And if that works for fans, imagine how it plays in a recruit’s living room.
Before ECU made a move on a head coach three years ago, the rumor was that a big name was coming.
It turned out to be true — in last name only.
Now Skip is making a name for himself.
The trick will be keeping him in Greenville.