Oct. 4, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Former University of Notre Dame head coach and College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2008 member Lou Holtz will lead the Fighting Irish Legends onto the field when he coaches in what he promises will be “one last game.”
Holtz will take charge of the Legends, an alumni team made up of former Fighting Irish football players, for the NOTRE DAME JAPAN BOWL 2009 to be played at the 55,000-seat Tokyo Dome in Japan’s capital city on Saturday, July 25, 2009. The game against the Japanese national team will be the highlight of an eight-day visit to Tokyo to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Japan American Football Association (JAFA).
The Fighting Irish Legends will meet for a two-day mini camp in South Bend on July 17 and 18 next year, before heading east from July 19 to 26 as unique sporting ambassadors in Japan.
“I have cleared my schedule to coach in the game and I am really looking forward to it,” said Holtz. “We will bring a very competitive team that is not only excited about representing the University of Notre Dame in this game, but about the prospect of visiting Japan. I have previously coached in Japan three different times and had a memorable experience each time. The Japanese people were kind, congenial and helpful. I learned a great deal from them on each and every trip.”
Holtz announced his commitment to coach the Fighting Irish Legends team via a video message played at the weekly Notre Dame Football Luncheon at the Joyce Center on Friday, October 3. The 2,500 attendees were also introduced to NOBUMI TOBARI, Director of the Japan American Football Association and Japanese Event Producer SHINZO YAMADA. Yamada played for the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe and also played in the Tokyo Dome as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the 2003 preseason.
U.S. Event Producer and President of Global Football PATRICK STEENBERGE, who was a quarterback for the Fighting Irish in the early 1970s, said: “We are honored to be working with Notre Dame and, of course, with Coach Holtz on this exciting venture.
“We have enjoyed a successful run with the Notre Dame Football Fantasy Camp and are now looking forward to some great experiences both on and off the field in Japan. This event fits perfectly within the Global Football mission of uniting the world through American football.”
Holtz has named former Georgia Tech, East Carolina and Wyoming veteran head coach Bill Lewis as his assistant head coach and defensive backs coach. Lewis spent nine years on the staff of the Miami Dolphins was as an assistant head coach and defensive backs coach at the University of Notre Dame. Former Notre Dame running back Reggie Brooks, who played for Holtz as a member of the Irish team from 1989-92 and now handles Notre Dame football alumni relations for the Notre Dame Monogram Club, is charged with recruiting the Fighting Irish Legends playing staff. Invitations are being sent out to former players, focusing on those who played at Notre Dame during the past decade. Details of the Fighting Irish Legends roster and additions to the coaching staff will be announced in the coming months.
“I am convinced this game will be of great interest to our fans and alumni,” added Holtz. “The fine players we have contacted to play in this game are excited about the prospect of helping the Japan American Football Association celebrate 75 years of football. We are also aware that Japan’s football is very good and we will have to play our very best to compete with their national team and you can rest assured we will bring a very good team.”
This marks the fifth international experience for the Notre Dame football program:
- The Notre Dame freshman football team played in Mexico City, Mexico, in 1971.
- The Irish defeated Miami 40-15 in the Mirage Bowl (the regular-season finale that year) at National Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, on Nov, 24, 1979. Vagas Ferguson carried 35 times for 177 yards and three touchdowns.
- Nineteenth-rated Notre Dame defeated Navy 54-27 at Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland, in a regular-season game played Nov. 2, 1996 – behind Autry Denson’s 123 rushing yards and two TDs.
- An Irish alumni team won 14-10 against the Hamburg Blue Devils at Volksparkstadion in Hamburg, Germany, on July 8, 2000 – thanks to an end-zone interception by Ivory Covington on the final play of the game.
About the Japan American Football Association (JAFA)
JAFA was established in 1935 and celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2009 and currently has 390 teams playing at the corporate semi-professional, university and high school level with more than 18,000 active players. The Japanese football championship game, better known as the Rice Bowl, launched in 1948 as an East versus West all-star game. In 1983, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of American football in Japan, the Rice Bowl changed its format to one that pits the university champion against the corporate-sponsored semi-pro champion to determine the national champion. The annual game takes place during the national New Year’s holiday in January. The Japanese national team features players from the corporate and college ranks.
About Global Football
President and Notre Dame Japan Bowl Event Producer (U.S.) Patrick Steenberge (ND ’73) played quarterback and lettered two seasons at Notre Dame under Coach Ara Parseghian. He brings 30 years of international business background to the organization, having specialized in communications, special events production and marketing. Global Football has built solid working relationships with the top football organizations in the world, including: American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), NFL International, Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc., International Federation of American Football (IFAF), Penn State University, USA Football, and numerous NCAA DIII colleges.
— ND —