Lou Holtz says his biggest regret at South Carolina was not standing up for his son or his staff when administrators demanded changes after the Gamecocks 63-17 loss to Clemson in 2003.
Holtz, 69, flew in Friday night returning to the last of his six coaching stops for the first time since he retired in November 2004, partly to promote his new book, Wins, Losses and Lessons: An Autobiography, and partly to field questions about his tenure with the Gamecocks.
Of all the mistakes Holtz says he made during his six seasons here, the one that hurts the most was accepting the decision to fire four assistants and demote his son, Skip, from his offensive coordinator role.
In the aftermath of one of South Carolina's most demoralizing defeats, Holtz says he was approached by university president Andrew Sorensen and then-athletic director Mike McGee in the locker room about making changes.
"Yeah, I was asked to make that and that's where I am disappointed in myself. I should have had the courage to say no," Holtz said. " 'You don't like what I'm doing here, fire me.' But we played so poorly that night, I was decimated."
Two days after the defeat at Williams-Brice Stadium, the Gamecocks got rid of four assistants including defensive coordinator Chris Cosh. A few weeks later, Holtz announced that he would take over the offense from his son.
The elder Holtz says he regrets "not standing up for my staff [and] falling on the sword."
In Holtz's newest book, he says he and Skip were misled by South Carolina administrators who had promised that Skip would succeed his father as Gamecocks coach.