Caldwell has change of heart

Updated: December 28, 2003, 2:13 AM ET
Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina coach Lou Holtz's offseason took another unexpected twist Saturday when recently hired assistant Robbie Caldwell returned to his old position at Vanderbilt.

Holtz said Caldwell accepted South Carolina's offer to coach the offensive line. "But he has now informed me that he has decided to remain at Vanderbilt University," Holtz said.

Caldwell and his family were in the Carolinas on Christmas Eve. Holtz announced the hiring just hours before the holiday. Caldwell, a native of Pageland, called the chance to return to the state and work for Holtz "a dream come true."

But Holtz and Caldwell spoke several times on Saturday about Caldwell's second thoughts. In the end, Caldwell said he couldn't give up on the Commodores and Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson. "I could not renege on that commitment," Caldwell said in a statement.

A message to Caldwell from The Associated Press was not immediately returned. Holtz was at his Florida home on Christmas break, South Carolina athletics spokesman Kerry Tharp said Saturday night.

Caldwell's decision means Holtz has three positions to fill on his staff in what has been his most turbulent offseason at South Carolina.

Two days after the Gamecocks finished a 5-7 season with a horrific 63-17 loss at home to archrival Clemson, Holtz dismissed four coaches in a shakeup some have called "Black Monday." Defensive coordinator Chris Cosh, quarterbacks coach Todd Fitch, offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo and secondary coach John Gutekunst -- who had all been with the Gamecocks all five of Holtz's seasons -- were let go.

Then first-year receivers coach Charlie Williams left to take a position with new Arizona coach Mike Stoops.

The status of Holtz's offensive coordinator son, Skip, also is up in the air because his father announced Dec. 17 that starting next year he would take control of the attack.

Holtz's first hire also was surprising -- bringing in East Carolina offensive coordinator Rick Stockstill, who spent 1989-02 at South Carolina's chief rival Clemson, to coach receivers.

Caldwell seemed fired up and ready to go after accepting the job.

But when he returned to Nashville, the connection he felt to the players and to Johnson -- an Furman assistant while Caldwell played offensive line for the Paladins in the 1970s -- hit home. "I feel bad for the disruption and difficulty I have caused," Caldwell said.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press