Vitale a USF Fan, But Irish at Heart

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popevitale.jpgSt. Pete Times - Living in Lakewood Ranch in Manatee County, ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale has become a fan of USF athletics, but his family has strong ties to Notre Dame - his daughters Terri and Sherri went there on tennis scholarships, graduated with MBAs and married fellow Notre Dame graduates.

He has endowed the Dick Vitale Family Scholarship, which goes to a student involved in Fighting Irish athletics in areas that don't have financial aid, like the marching band or spirit squads.

Vitale will be in South Bend this weekend for USF's opener at Notre Dame, and while he'll be pulling for the Irish, he has a long friendship with the Holtz family.

Vitale said when Lou Holtz coached Notre Dame, he "represented everything the university was about. In terms of spirit, enthusiasm, doing things the right way, graduating players. He was just perfect, like a (Mike) Krzyzewski fits at a Duke, a guy like Roy Williams at North Carolina, (Joe) Paterno at Penn State."

When USF went searching for a head football coach in January 2010, Vitale wrote to Bulls athletic director Doug Woolard and later talked with him, saying that Skip Holtz could be the same kind of fit for USF.

"I said, 'Skip Holtz is the perfect guy.' This guy to me should have been in a big-time place a lot sooner," Vitale said. "He did a heck of a job at Connecticut, a terrific job at East Carolina. These aren't schools to win at. I was at Rutgers, so I understand what he's faced with in terms of recruiting. I felt South Florida, with the players he had in the state, that he would be perfect."

Vitale has referenced the USF-Notre Dame game on Twitter often in the past month. He predicts a 31-24 Notre Dame victory. "I'll root for South Florida in all its other games," he said. "The 12th man, the spirit, the Golden Dome ultimately takes Notre Dame to the winner's circle."

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