Skip Holtz Snubs Syracuse: Now What?

Drew ShapiroContributor IDecember 11, 2008

Various North Carolina media outlets and recruiting websites are reporting that East Carolina head coach Skip Holtz has rebuffed an offer to become head football coach at Syracuse.

The proposed deal is reported to have been somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 million and I've heard the figure of $2 million per year bandied about, leading me to believe this could have been a five- or six-year deal. That is quite a generous offer to turn down if it's true, making me wonder what Skip has in mind for his future.

Auburn still has a head coaching vacancy to fill, a place that Holtz probably finds more appealing, but there has been no official word of that school contacting him. The bottom line is that Skip Holtz is probably very comfortable staying in Greenville, NC for at least another season, knowing full well that other opportunities will most likely present themselves in the future, especially if he continues to have the type of success he's having at ECU.

There is no word on why exactly he turned down Syracuse AD Daryl Gross' offer, but it could have something to do with the fact that turning around the Orange program will be a massive undertaking.

Despite being a storied program in a BCS conference, Syracuse has fallen quite drastically from the days of Donovan McNabb and Dwight Freeney only a few short years ago. Recently fired head coach Greg Robinson oversaw a 10-36 tenure with constant coach and quarterback shuffling, record low attendance rates, and a generally disgruntled fan base.

Where does Doc Gross go from here?

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If you're Daryl Grosss, you're still pretty happy that there are solid second and third options to be had after Skip Holtz.

The next natural step would be to look at Buffalo head coach Turner Gill. He exhibits many of the same resume items that Holtz does, such as having head coaching experience, rebuilding a once-futile program, a knowledge of the Northeast and its recruiting landscape, and having worked at top tier programs in an assistant capacity in the past.

Gill even has one major attribute over Holtz: He was a successful college quarterback with Nebraska, winning three national titles (Holtz played two seasons at Notre Dame under his father, Lou Holtz, in a mostly reserve role). Like Holtz, though, Gill is a hot commodity, fresh off leading the Buffalo Bulls to an unlikely MAC championship over Ball State.

In addition to Syracuse, Auburn has also received permission to talk to Gill about their head coaching vacancy. Auburn, though, is more likely to go with a candidate who has stronger ties to the SEC, leaving Syracuse an opening to make a quick and generous offer to lock up Gill and make him one of only two African American head football coaches in all the BCS conferences.

Fallback option No. 2 for Gross and the Orange is Doug Marrone, who is currently the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach for the NFL's New Orleans Saints. Marrone is an extremely passionate Syracuse grad who would probably relish the opportunity to resurrect the once-proud program for whom he was an offensive guard.

Negatives on Marrone are that he lacks play calling and head coaching experience, he has not coached much on the college level, and he lacks the type of name recognition that would be of value on the recruiting trail. Marrone's name has also come up in the University of Tennessee's search for an offensive coordinator under newly hired head coach Lane Kiffin.

I don't think Syracuse or fans of the program should be in any way concerned that Skip Holtz turned down their offer to become head coach. These things happen to bigger and more prominent football programs all the time, and the fact is, Syracuse has many solid options with which to fill their vacancy. Both Turner Gill and Doug Marrone are excellent candidates, and others are still out there who could pose as possibilities to lead the struggling program.

My sense is that Daryl Gross is close to making his decision on how best to proceed and that we should here something by Monday next week at the latest.