Oct. 19, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – To no one’s surprise, the remarks–both serious and comedic–from former University of Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz carried the evening Friday night at the 1988 national championship 25th reunion dinner in the Monogram Room in the Joyce Center.
Some 60 former Irish players and coaches returned for the weekend of activities. That group will be honored on the Notre Dame Stadium field just prior to kickoff tonight of Notre Dame-USC.
Linebacker and team captain Ned Bolcar served as master of ceremonies and led off the list of speakers:
“I know I made the right decision (coming to Notre Dame) and 25 years later I know you feel the same way.
“Twenty-five years ago I would have been scared to death to sit up here (next to Holtz). Tonight I couldn’t be prouder to be here.
“We were blessed with the great coaching staff that Coach Holtz put together.”
Linebacker Darrell “Flash” Gordon, provided the invocation, kidding that Bolcar had gone on so long that he instead would provide the benediction:
“It’s awesome to see all these successful people in this room. Just think, it was 25 years ago that we were preparing to play number-one Miami. That game would transition each of our destinies.”
Quarterback Tony Rice offered some acknowledgements, including thanks to four representatives of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, which sponsored the evening:
“It seems like yesterday my grandmother was telling me to follow that little man (Holtz) who did the magic tricks.
“I followed the sign that said, `The Lord is my shepherd, but Lou Holtz is my coach.'”
Holtz, who flew to Bristol late Friday for his ESPN shows today, provided a combination of serious and light-hearted observations:
“This championship really began the previous year when we lost to Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. We were ahead 10-0 and lost 35-10. I remember there was one guy crying in the locker room and that was Chris Zorich and he didn’t even play. . .
“The next day I flew to Tokyo for the Japan Bowl and we stayed at the Takanawa Prince Hotel. At five in the morning all the hotel employees were outside doing calisthenics. So I decided our team would go off of attitude and not talent . . .
“I remember playing at Pittsburgh and we weren’t play particularly well. Pitt tied it up in the third period, and Tony Rice is on the sideline and he says, `Wow, this is a great game.’ I’m not sure I agreed, but he said, `We’ll find out if we’re any good,’ and he was right. By the end of the season I think we had beaten six of the top 10 teams in the final poll . . .
“At the Fiesta Bowl, we had good preparation. The day before the game, at the final practice at Sun Devil Stadium, we assigned different underclassmen to carry the seniors off the field the next day when we won. We were a confident group.”
Holtz remembered accompanying his team to the White House to be honored by outgoing President Ronald Reagan. Holtz remained in Washington, D.C., overnight for the inauguration and received a phone call at one in the morning with the news Bobby Satterfield had died of a congenital heart issue.
“It didn’t matter if he was white or black, first string or third string, scholarship or walk-on–the reaction was the same. The love between the players made this team special. It was about love, trust and commitment,” said Holtz.
“I always had three rules–do what’s right, do everything to the best of your ability and make sure people know you care. If you follow those rules, they’ll never let you down.
“We are here tonight because of the love and feeling and sacrifice you made for other people.”
Holtz kidded: “When you were here at Note Dame we told you that you would be here for four years and we would be there for you for the next 40 years. Thank God those 40 years are almost up.”
— John Heisler, Senior Associate Athletics Director