Dec. 4, 2008
Lou Holtz, WILLIAM & MARY (1969-71), NORTH CAROLINA STATE (1972-75), ARKANSAS (1977-83), MINNESOTA (1984-85), NOTRE DAME (1986-96), SOUTH CAROLINA (1999-2004)
* Only coach in NCAA history to lead six different programs to bowl games
* Led Notre Dame to 1988 National Championship and to nine straight New Year’s Day bowl games from 1987-95
* Directed his Arkansas teams to six straight bowls from 1977-82
ESPN commentator Lou Holtz, also a motivational speaker and author, could wear colors of six different schools when he is inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
But Holtz, the bespectacled 71-year-old, may be most remembered for his quick wit and his 11-year stay under the Golden Dome, where he won 100 games and led the Fighting Irish to their most recent national championship in 1988. In only his third season at Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish defeated West Virginia, 34-21 in the Fiesta Bowl, capping a 12-0 season.
Holtz completed a turnaround at Notre Dame, which had seen the Fighting Irish recover from two straight 5-6 seasons, including his first in South Bend in 1986. The next season, Notre Dame and Heisman Trophy Winner Tim Brown went to the Cotton Bowl, before Holtz made his big breakthrough.
“You dream about it, but I never thought it would happen to me,” Holtz said after beating West Virginia. “I never thought I would coach a national championship team. It still hasn’t sunk in.”
The victory over West Virginia was especially significant to Holtz because he was born in Follansbee, West Virginia, during the depression era of the 1930s. But the family moved and Holtz grew up in Liverpool, Ohio, and he later played college football at Kent State. He has been on the move ever since. “When reality set in, I said, ‘How did this happen?”
Holtz recalled of when he heard he was going to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. “I wasn’t a great athlete. I was from a small town. There are just so many people, you think, how in the world was I fortunate enough?”
A journeyman assistant in the 1960s after playing college football, Holtz got his head coaching break at William & Mary in 1969. He won a Southern Conference title in 1970, which, a year later, prompted a move to North Carolina State. With the Wolfpack, Holtz compiled a 33-12-3 record, going to four bowls in four seasons. Then it was on to Arkansas where the Razorbacks advanced to six straight bowls and crushed Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, 31-6, finishing No. 3 nationally in the 1977 season.
Holtz, who won national coach of the year honors at Arkansas and Notre Dame, spent two seasons at Minnesota, turning the moribund Gophers into a bowl-bound team (Independence Bowl in 1985) before accepting the Notre Dame job.
“The thing we don’t think about is the sacrifice your family makes when it is in coaching,” Holtz said. “We moved 16 different times, and (his wife Beth) never complained once. I would be gone recruiting and she would always be supportive.”
Holtz spent two seasons as a CBS commentator in 1997 and 1998, before coming out of retirement for his sixth head job at South Carolina. After an 0-11 inaugural season in 1999, Holtz took the Gamecocks to two bowls in the next five seasons through 2004, winning both of those games against Ohio State in the Outback Bowls during the 2000 and 2001 seasons.
Holtz, who has won 249 games, said he talked to a BCS school after the 2007 season and was tempted about an opening. But he’s probably through coaching, although not commentating. “I never want to be retired because you never get a day off,” Holtz quipped.
The 2008 Hall of Fame Class will be officially inducted at the NFF’s Annual Awards Dinner, held at New York City’s historic Waldorf=Astoria Hotel on Tuesday, December 9. The National Hall of Fame Salute at the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl follows on January 5, giving the class recognition on a national stage, and events culminate with the College Football Hall of Fame’s Enshrinement Festival in South Bend, Ind., July 17-18.
The 2008 class includes Troy Aikman (UCLA), Billy Cannon (LSU), Jim Dombrowski (UVA), Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern), Wilber Marshall (Florida), Rueben Mayes (Washington State), Randall McDaniel (ASU), Don McPherson (Syracuse), Jay Novacek (Wyoming), Dave Parks (Texas Tech), Ron Simmons (Florida State), Thurman Thomas (Oklahoma State), Arnold Tucker (Army), Coach John Cooper (Tulsa, ASU, Ohio State) and Coach Lou Holtz (William & Mary, NC State, Arkansas, Minnesota, Notre Dame, South Carolina). To attend the 2008 Hall of Fame Press Conference prior to the Annual Awards Dinner, please contact NFF Director of Communications Phil Marwill at firstname.lastname@example.org or via telephone at 917.579.4256.