A provisional invitation to the Outback Bowl wasn't the only good news received by South Carolina on Wednesday.
Coach Lou Holtz, who led the Gamecocks to a 7-4 record after an 0-11 disaster in 1999, was named national coach of the year by collegefootballnews.com and SEC coach of the year by The Sporting News.
Nose guard Cleveland Pinkney, linebacker Kalimba Edwards and cornerback Sheldon Brownwere named first-team all-SEC by The Sporting News, and sophomore running back Derek Watson earned second-team all-conference honors.
Assistant John Gutekunst, who coaches defensive backs, was named assistant of the year by the American Football Coaches Association.
Holtz said no team has approached any of his assistants about coaching jobs elsewhere.
What surprises him most is the notion that no one has contacted defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who in two years has molded his unit into one of the more stout in the nation.
"I just can't believe that somebody wouldn't want to talk to him," Holtz said. "He does such a tremendous job. I think he's interested in being a head coach, and I think he'd be an excellent head coach."
Holtz said he advised his players to rid themselves of football during Thanksgiving break.
"I told them `Just get away from football for one week - weight lifting, everything. Just get away.' "
Holtz didn't find forgetting as easy.
"I tried, but I really couldn't," he said. "My mind kept wandering back and forth, particularly when I'd yip a putt. I'd think, `Why in the world am I out here?' "
The Gamecocks will practice today, Friday and Sunday. Holtz said the first two practices will focus on fundamentals with younger players.
Sunday, the team will practice at 1 p.m. The session is open to the public, and players will be available for pictures and autographs afterward.
The Gamecocks will not practice on Saturday because of the high school state championship games being held at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Holtz's philosophy on bowl travel is to leave exactly a week before the game.
"My belief is you don't want it to be a three-day away game," he said.
If the Gamecocks go to the Outback Bowl (Jan. 1), Holtz's plan would dictate they leave on Christmas Day.
If they're in the Peach Bowl (Dec. 29), they'd arrive in Atlanta on Dec. 22.
"Hopefully we would have some alums in Atlanta..who would take two players to their homes for dinner Christmas Eve," Holtz said of the Peach arrangements. "When they came back, we would have a little get-together and have a coach play Santa Claus.
"The nice thing about this staff is I could have some play Santa Claus without using any padding," Holtz said.
Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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