Sunday, January 18, 2004

Minter happy to assist

Ex-UC coach on Holtz staff again

Enquirer news services

COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina defensive coordinator Rick Minter is glad to be back where football is king.

"Right now, at this time of year, I'm (usually) talking about basketball," said Minter, who was Cincinnati's head coach for 10 seasons.

Even with Minter winning a Conference USA title two seasons ago and going to four bowl games during his tenure, football always rated somewhere below the hoops program and its fiery coach, Bob Huggins.

No chance of that happening at South Carolina.

The Gamecocks' basketball team is 16-2 this season, its best start in more than three decades. But the football coaching search that ended with Minter's hiring Monday was the big news on the South Carolina scene ever since head coach Lou Holtz let four assistants go on Nov. 24 - two days after a humiliating 63-17 home loss to rival Clemson.

Now, Gamecock Nation is looking to Minter to restore a defense that's slipped badly the past two seasons.

And there were plenty of reasons why Minter was Holtz's selection - again.

Holtz gave Minter his first two major coaching breaks - in 1978 as a graduate assistant at Arkansas, and 14 years later as Notre Dame's defensive coordinator. Minter, 49, was Holtz's defensive coordinator at Notre Dame for two years (1992-93).

Minter ran things on Cincinnati's defense the past two years. The Bearcats went 5-7 after starting 3-0 this season.

With a 53-63-1 record, he is UC's all-time winningest coach.

The Fighting Irish were 21-2-1 in Minter's two years with Holtz. In 1993 Notre Dame held nine opponents to less than 100 yards rushing while in 1992 the Fighting Irish held their last nine foes to just 91 yards rushing.

"I've just learned so much from him," said Minter, who had not been to Columbia during Holtz's search process until he arrived Monday to meet with his new players. "It's great to be reunited with coach Holtz."

Minter said several factors led to the delay in his hiring, including his trying to resolve contractual issues with Cincinnati, deciding what the best career move was for himself, and helping his assistants find jobs.

"I've had my eyes on this situation for now four to five weeks," Minter said. "Coach Holtz has been very, very patient with me."

The Gamecocks' athletic department didn't release any information about Minter's contract, saying it had to be approved by South Carolina's executive committee, which must OK contracts worth $250,000 or more.

Minter told reporters during a teleconference that his base defensive scheme would be a four-man front, but he likes to be "multiple" on defense to make sure offenses don't have a "stationary target."

"We aren't going to sit back and wait and let things happen," he said.

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