Nick Holt gets heave-ho from Huskies
After three seasons of bombast, intensity, and, ultimately, frustration, the Nick Holt era at the University of Washington ended quietly with an emailed press release Saturday.
It came just two days after a defensively embarrassing 67-56 Alamo Bowl loss to Baylor on national television that made it almost impossible to keep the defensive coordinator for another season.
After downplaying reports Friday of Holt’s impending firing, along with that of safeties coach Jeff Mills, by the website Footballscoop.com
, the university released a statement saying that Holt, Mills and linebackers coach Mike Cox will not be retained for next season.
“I want to thank Nick Holt, Mike Cox, and Jeff Mills for their hard work and dedication throughout the last three years,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said in the statement. “They were instrumental in the leadership and development of countless young men, and they have left our program in a better place. I am grateful for their service to our program and to the University of Washington and I wish them all the best in their future endeavors.”
After the Alamo Bowl loss, Sarkisian was adamant to the point of anger that he would evaluate the performance of his defensive staff along with all other facets of the team before making a decision.
Apparently, that evaluation period was less than 48 hours.
For three straight seasons, Sarkisian’s paid coaching staff had remained intact with no departures or dismissals. It was something he prided himself upon.
However, that changed shortly before the Alamo Bowl when cornerbacks coach and top Los Angeles recruiter Demetrice Martin left for a similar position with UCLA. Now with the firings of Holt, Mills and Cox, it leaves just line coach Johnny Nansen from the defensive staff.
The three coaches were under contract for 2012, thanks to Sarkisian, who helped get them contract extensions and pay increases.
As part of those contracts, all three will receive their 2012 salary in a lump sum within 30 days.
Holt, who was third-highest paid state employee behind Sarkisian and Lorenzo Romar, will receive $650,004. Cox will get $220,008 and Mills will receive $155,000.
The sum is more than $1 million, however the money Washington received from the recent Pacific-12 Conference television deal makes swallowing the deal easier. It also gives athletic director Scott Woodward the leverage to spend more on replacing the coaches.
When Sarkisian was hired in December 2008, he considered Holt one of his most important hires. The two worked together at USC, and it was considered a major coup to lure Holt away from a Trojans squad that was loaded with talent. Initially, Holt turned down the job, but Sarkisian got him to reconsider. Of course, making him the highest paid coordinator in the conference helped.
Holt arrived at Washington and wowed fans and alums with his close-shaved head, a professional wrestler’s mentality and a voice that sounded like he had gargled with sand and rocks. But the cartoonish figure and his animated antics on the sideline soon wore thin on Huskies fans as his defenses struggled on the field.
During Holt’s tenure, the Huskies struggled in all facets of defense and never achieved promised consistency. And 2011 may have been the worst.
The Huskies set school records for points allowed (467), total touchdowns (58), pass completions (305), passing yards (3,700), passing yards per game (284.6), total yards (5,893), average total offense per game (453.3), first downs (297) and passing first downs (167). The 58 touchdowns surrendered were second-most in school history, as were the 22 touchdown passes allowed. The 62.8 completion percentage allowed was third highest.
And there were the single-game defensive marks set at the Alamo Bowl – the 777 yards of total offense and 43 second-half points by Baylor. The Bears’ eight rushing touchdowns and nine total touchdowns both tied school records. The 482 yards rushing allowed was second-most in UW history. And it was the second time (both under Holt) the Huskies had allowed three players to rush for more than 100 yards in a game.
According to the press release, the University of Washington, specifically Sarkisian and Woodward, will not comment on the firings for now.
The next question is, what does Sarkisian does next? Filling position coaches, like the ones Mills and Cox are leaving, will be relatively easy, but finding a replacement for Holt will be the No. 1 task. Sarkisian doesn’t have the benefit of decades of coaching contacts and relationships to call upon. The school will conduct a national search.
The most obvious candidate could be Rocky Seto – currently assistant defensive backs and safeties coach for the Seahawks. Seto worked with Sarkisian at USC, and was actually offered the job after Holt initially turned it down. But Seto chose to stay with the Trojans until he came north with Pete Carroll.
Another name to consider is Chuck Heater. The Temple defensive coordinator was the secondary coach during Florida’s national title years. He coached at Washington for five years from 1999-2003 with stints as a running backs and cornerbacks coach. He also served as the Huskies’ recruiting coordinator. Three of his recruiting classes produced a freshman All-American.
Jim Heacock was Ohio State defensive coordinator, but is now jobless after not being retained by Urban Meyer. Heacock was UW’s defensive line coach from 1983-1987.
Sarkisian could also venture outside of his comfort zone and perhaps call on Woodward’s experience in the SEC to find a candidate.
Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports