Part 2 of interview with USF Head coach Skip Holtz
How important is it to win here quickly?
"I remember when I was a head coach and somebody asked me how important was this first game, and do I have to win this first game? I said I think how we respond to the win or loss is more important to winning. I think the same thing applies; it's not necessarily how we do this season, but how we respond to that. We're going to build this program and you never arrive over night. You don't build it by just throwing athletes on to the field and say go run, jump, catch, and do those things on the field. You build it by building cohesiveness, and togetherness.
How long will it take us to do that, I don't know. I think for the seniors we're going to do everything to win a Big East title in our first year here, but the most important part is making progress to building a program. The wins are results of building the program. You put it on a solid foundation, and build it on rock then I think it has a chance to stay for a long time, rather than being just a flash in the pan success and winning one or two good games, but it's a matter of playing week in and week out, and season in and season out to build the type of program we want here at the University of South Florida.
Is it imports to get the football program over that hump and get a championship?
"It's not about me building it. It's about this university and this young football program, and the success they've already had with five bowl games. It's a great university with great leadership with an unbelievable passion and excitement with their athletic department. So from that standpoint we just have to continue to build on the success they've had. But that is the mountain top, that's where we want to go. How long it takes us to get there, I don't know, but we're going to have the same goals this year that we're going to have in year four, five or six, it's just how fast we can come together and build it."
After taking over some bad programs, and that not being the case with USF, how do you treat that?
"I think we have to embrace the success this program has had. It's not situation where it's completely broke. We don't need to come in here and tear it down, burn it to the ground and start all over again. We have to build on the success that they've had over the years. We have to embrace that success, and what the players have done on the field, and turn around and build on that. I'm not here to change this football team, I'm here to build on what they've already done, and take them higher."
What's it been like dealing with the players over all that transpired over the last few weeks?
"There's a lot of individual healing and a lot of team healing that needs to happen. There's been a trust factor that's been broken and there are a lot of things that need to come together, and right now adversity is here. And that's going to do one of two things to this football program. It's either going to rear it apart and splinter it into a million pieces or we can all turn and come together with a common goal and come together as a team and build it and become a stronger team because of it. Some of the tribulations and trials we're going through now are going to make us stronger as we go into the season. That's if we can respond to it the right way.
I'm sensitive to the fact that what we're going through and where the players are right now. I'm giving them the opportunity to continue heal a little bit individually. With us having to press forward with recruiting the next few weeks will give them that time. I need to meet with every player on this team individually, I need to have one-on-one meetings and see what the needs are, what the concerns are, and what we got to do to turn and build this program, what stopped us from getting to the mountain top. I have to build their trust.
"We had a twenty minute team meeting and I haven't sensed that, but I'm going with the assumption that those feelings are present, but until I have the opportunity to meet with them individually, nobody has said that. Nor did it come up in the team meeting. I have to build a trust factor with theses players, and I said last night, they didn't choose me, I chose you and chose to be here. Now it's my obligation to build the trust factor."
What's the biggest selling point you had to come here?
"Family, really it was family, it's what this university is all about. The foundation, the administration, the athletic department, the football program has built it on being a family. You build it with a family atmosphere and I've said all along that is one of the most important things in building a solid football program."
What's it like for you hosting your first recruiting weekend?
"It's whirlwind, and there's a lot going on, but I'm excited about having the opportunity to stand in front of many of these players and talk about the dreams and visions we have for this program. Where we want to take it, and how they turn and fit into the success of USF in the future."
What are you going to say to the recruits as a selling point for the USF football program?
"We just got to sell them on what we're trying to build. It's going to be hard because they don't know us, and when I say us, I mean they don't know me and I don't know them, and they don't know what to expect. I'm just looking forward to stand in front of them and talk about the dreams, visions and goals we have for this program and most importantly how they fit into it."
In the past one thing that stood out to visiting recruits was the family atmosphere at USF, are you going to embrace that?
"Absolutely, as I said before that was the main reason why I came here, and that was because of the family. From the administration, the athletic department, the staff, and the players, all the way down. I know I'm happy to be part of it."
How will the many players that have gone through this program, be treated from here on out?
"The door is open. This is their program, they are the ones that built this program to where it is now, and are a big part of our future, because they have laid down the foundation of what we're trying to build on here, and the door is always open. Any past player is always welcome to our facilities, practices and to this university's football program. I don't want them to feel because Coach Leavitt is gone that the relationship is gone. This is still their program."
With some of those playing in the pros, are you going to reach out to them to help sell your vision?
"Right now I have to reach out to the staff first, and to the recruits and I got to start walking first before we can begin running. Those are definitely things we want to turn and sell, because they've been here at this university, and shown what you can do here at USF, but my first objectives over the next ten days is to set my sights and my goals with what we're trying to do. Put a staff together, get recruiting done, and get this team organized and going in the right direction. Those are my priorities right now." Read part 1 of the Holtz Interview