Nov. 17, 1996
Off The Practice Field…Head Coach Lou Holtz
JOHN HEISLER: Good morning. This is John Heisler here atNotre Dame. Coach Holtz is here. He’ll make some openingcomments, then we’ll take some questions.
COACH HOLTZ: This press conference has been going for a coupleyears predominantly just to get my observations of what happenedin the game. First of all, let me cover the injury situation.Marc Edwards will be out for the rest of the regular season atleast. Whether we are fortunate enough to go to a bowl game ornot, we’ll find out. Cikai Champion will be out again thisweek. Randy Kinder dislocated his shoulder, we have to wait andsee how long he’ll be out. Pete Chryplewicz has a bad ankle. Hewas able to go back into the game, but I haven’t talked to thedoctor yet. You always worry about the swelling that may occurafter that. Emmett Mosley had a concussion. We’ll have tosee. We do expect Mike Rosenthal back this week. If it goeswell, it will be a welcome reception waiting for him. A’JaniSanders should be at practice most of the week.
Looking back on the game, I expected it to be a much closer gameobviously. Pittsburgh played so well against Boston College,played well against Virginia Tech, leading them 17-13 inBlacksburg in the fourth quarter.
I think the punt returns in the second quarterjust broke the thing open. Our goal going into the game was toscore on a punt return and a punt block. We had never done thatin one game. We set that as a goal. Didn’t accomplish the puntblock. We could have had four returns. We were one block awayfrom breaking the first one. I thought the team did an excellentjob on it.
The other objective we hadwas it’s only the second time in 11 years I’ve been here atNotre Dame we were minus on give away, take away on the turnoverratio. That was one of our objectives to end up on the plusside. Our objective was to have no turnovers and createthree on defense. We had four on defense, lost one on offense,dropped a pitch and we lost one on the punt return or the faircatch. That puts us even. This is highly unusual to be even oreven to be down at this late stage of the year.
Offensively we played very well. I want to tell you, MikeDoughty is really playing well at right tackle. Clevenger playedawful well, Kaczenski did. Tim Ridder stepped in and has done anice job. Jeremy Akers is really giving us a big lift.Chryplewicz is playing well. We got some good blocking fromthe receivers, particularly Raki Nelson. Shannon Stephensstepped up, had been out a couple weeks, made some big plays.One thing about Shannon, every time he’s played he’s madeseveral big plays in the course of the football game. Liked tosee Jarius Jackson, I thought he did a nice job. When he doesn’toverstride, he throws the ball very, very well. Powlus did anexcellent job I thought. We had more drops than what we’d liketo have during the course of a football game.
Runningbacks played well. Jamie Spencer blocked well, ran well.Robert Farmer I think is coming along, and his confidence isgrowing. Autry Denson had his third consecutive 100-yard game.
Defensively I don’t know when we’ve had better outsidelinebacker play than we’re getting right now from Kory Minor andBert Berry. Both of them are playing excellent football.
We created a lot of big plays on defense. We had ten lostyardage plays, five sacks. That’s very, very disruptive to anoffense obviously. Alton Maiden, once again, you watch him onfilm. You just don’t appreciate the contribution Alton made toour front seven.
Linebackers playing well, Cobbins and Tatum. Of course Dansbyand Corey Bennett playing very, very well. Dee Cooper comes upwith a couple turnovers, again, made some big plays.
Schedule this week will basically be normal, normal as we cankeep it. Meet with the players tomorrow at 3:15, watch a film,start practice, get ready for Rutgers, which had an open date. Ihaven’t had a chance to look at them. Don’t know anything at allabout it. Our football players are falling into a rhythm. Ifelt, you know, the last three or four weeks, I felt good withthis football team, the way they’ve responded, the way they’vepracticed, the coaches have done a tremendous job. You know,just see if we can keep doing it.
The greatest thing about this game is it’s a different week,different team. I don’t know which team I’ll see on Monday. Youlook at Alabama, you know, goes down and beats LSU, then lastnight gets beat by Mississippi State. It’s crazy. There’s noother word to possibly describe it. No other questions?
Q. Lou, Pete Chryplewicz said yesterday after the game thatyou had told the team that you had a plan to be back next year.That is accurate?
COACH HOLTZ: You think Pete Chryplewicz lies (laughter)?
Q. I just wanted your reaction to what he says.
COACH HOLTZ: You know, we can talk about this forever, but thereisn’t much I’m going to say. I think there’s a time and there’sa place for everything. The ideal time is not always thebest time for everybody else, but there’s a time and place foreverything. There’s a time and place to address certainquestions, there’s a time and a place who to address it to.Right now in the media is not the time. I’m sorry.
Q. Just a follow-up. Are you concerned about how — there issome uncertainty in the air. Are you concerned about how thatmight affect how recruits are looking at the program rightnow?
COACH HOLTZ: Recruiting is probably further along at this stage ofthe year than any other time. I’m talking about it appears thatwe will have an exceptional recruiting class, it appears thatway at the present time. I’m always concerned about what’sin the best interest of Notre Dame. I don’t think there’s anydoubt about that. I don’t think my loyalty to Notre Dame canever be questioned, at least I don’t know of any action I’vedone that could generate that thought. We want to do what’s inthe best interest of Notre Dame.
Q. Lou, after a particularly difficult loss a couple of yearsago you said you would get this thing fixed and it wouldn’t takeas long as we might think. Do you feel like it’s fixed?
COACH HOLTZ: I think it’s fixed with two exceptions. We need agreat — we need speed at wide receiver. We need one great widereceiver and we need one big play-maker in the secondary.
I think that next year when I look at the football team, I thinkit’s a very, very good football team. I think Jamie Spencer hasproven that he can step in and play fullback. Joey Goodspeed andBerry. I think Denson is a fine tailback. It appears that we’regoing to have an excellent year recruiting runningbacks. Iwould hope Ron Powlus would come back. I think Jarious Jacksonwill do fine. O’Leary and Gandy, Cerasani at tight end. Out ofthe offensive players playing right now, I think ten of themhave eligibility remaining, ten of the offensive players, andthat doesn’t even include the backups.
I think, you know, our top eight players are back in thedefensive secondary. There’s Kory Minor. I think the program’ssolid. You look at next year, do you think it can be a goodfootball team? Yeah. We have to get a great wide receiver. Canwe beat anybody in the country today? Yeah, I think we’recapable. The way we’re playing right now, not trying to befancy, anything else, utilizing our talent and the disciplinethis school instills in you, I think we’re playing very well.
For the first time I feel we’re into a rhythm and I do think –I feel, you know, some of the great teams we’ve had here, thatthis team can play with anybody. I felt last year’s team couldplay with anybody, but we were a little bit weaker last year. You know, we lost a difficult game to Florida State, whichwas the No. 2 team in the country last year in the bowl game.That was without six starters, I think, in thatfootball game. When you lose a game like that, you have to lookat it and say, “You know, there’s just a thin line.”
What we need is a great play-maker wide receiver. He may be onthis football team right now, I don’t know. Might be ShannonStephens, might be Raki Nelson, might me Jay Johnson. I don’tknow, but we need a great play-maker at wide receiver. Don’tget me wrong, Mosley, Cikai Champion have done a great job,Malcolm Johnson, et cetera. Just the guy that can electrify thecrowd.
Q. Lou, one other question. Does Notre Dame admissions haveanything to do with the considerations you’re making rightnow?
COACH HOLTZ: In the last ten years I’ve been here at Notre Dame,I’ve talked to the admission’s officer maybe twice in ten years.I have never gotten an athlete admitted that was initiallyturned down by the admission’s officer. I don’t have a problemwith that. I think he does a nice job. His obligation is to makesure the people that get here can do the work academically.
Do I disagree with some of the decisions? Yes, because I knowthe person. I have no problem with that. That was madeabundantly clear to me when I came here. To try to lower theadmission’s office or the admission standards for a footballplayer would be totally unfair to every alum, every student hereand to the faculty members.
I think you ought to look at this guy’s character and integrityand recommendations, but I know those people. I can’t say that.He’s doing an excellent job. I never questioned it. People thatthink that I want a different academic standard would becompletely wrong along that line. The University makes thatdecision, and that was made abundantly clear to me when I camehere. I accept it.
COACH HOLTZ: I’ll tell you this, they’ve done a pretty good jobwith the academics here.
Q. We’ve been hearing conflicting reports as far as yourthoughts on coming close and/or breaking Knute Rockne’s all-timerecord at Notre Dame. Give us your take on that. I’ve heard outof respect for Notre Dame and college football, you don’t wantto break his record. Is that true and can you give us yourfeelings on that?
COACH HOLTZ: That’s absolutely true. I really do not have adesire to break Knute Rockne’s record. I had enough games tobreak it. I mean, it wasn’t like they said, “Okay, you can’tcoach anymore.” Would that be the sole figure when I leave here?Well, you leave — no. I think there are more importantconsiderations than that. But would I be happy about breakingit? No, no, not at all. I’ve always felt that. I’ve never reallychanged on that.
You may win more games, but you’ll never break Knute Rockne’srecord. What he did for football in general, for the country ingeneral, for Notre Dame in particular, is unbelievable.When I looked at his schedule, I wonder if theyhad division one, two and three then. What he’s done isfantastic. I would feel remorse if I were to break it.
Q. Lou, there seems to be a truth to the biblical life-spanof people, and history suggests there’s also a life-span forNotre Dame coaches. Have you considered that and where are youon that scale? (Laughter)
COACH HOLTZ: Well, I’m going to write a book someday and it’sgoing to be titled, You Know the Rest of The Story. I hope Iremember this question because that definitely has a place init.
No, I think I talked to Ara Parseghian this summer. Ara, I justhave the greatest respect for Ara. My goal is to be able to hitthe ball as well as he does. With two artificial hips, hedoesn’t sway like I do. Makes it easier. He made a comment hedidn’t think anybody could ever coach here 11 years, but that Iproved him wrong. He thought that I handled it very, very well.He was amazed at that. I just have a strong faith in God,that’s all. I don’t want to get religious. One of the things Ilove about the University of Notre Dame is being able to expressmy faith, say something to the team, pray with the team, withoutthe ACLU contacting the president and threatening to fire you onMonday unless you recant.
My religion is a very important part of my life, number onepriority. I think that’s enabled me to handle this.
I don’t think how old you are is important at all. I think it’show much time you have left to live. I notice some changes in mein 11 years. I look older probably. I notice I need a furtherhead start when they call them up, when we run out to start thegame. I used to be able to break from the huddle, now I have toget on the 10, last year the 5, next year it will be on the 15. But other than that, I don’t — I still have as much burningdesire to coach and be on the field as much as I ever have. Ithink the players sense that.
Q. Lou, you said yesterday we all knew at some point that youwould resign. But shy of saying what the decision is, can youtalk about what has brought you to this point, this particularseason, thinking this seriously about your future?
COACH HOLTZ: I think you always have to look at your future.It’s not just my future. You know, there are a lot of otherpeople involved in this as well.
I’m embarrassed that everybody is even talking about it. Ireally don’t care to say anything else about it. I think this issomething that the game, myself, my family looks at, Notre Dame.
I want to say this. Notre Dame, does not need Lou Holtz. Peoplewho think that are ridiculous. Lou Holtz needs Notre Dame; NotreDame doesn’t need me. This has been a great school. There’s farmore to this school than the football coach. You have to be partof this to understand that football is just a very, very smallfactor about it. People that make this a big deal, I don’t seeit that way, I really, truly don’t.
COACH HOLTZ: Coaches coach, players play, administratorsadministrate, reporters report, and there shouldn’t be anoverlap. You have a role. My job is not as an administrator.It’s not my job to say what the University ought to do onadmissions or anything else. If somebody were to ask me myopinion, I would certainly voice it, but that’s not myresponsibility.
COACH HOLTZ: You mention the subject. I have somebody that comesto mind except a second wife. I have nobody in that line. Youask anything else, my opinion on something, I think we ought togo — what we ought to do in Boston, yeah, I tell you. I tellyou what I think we ought to do in Zaire, but nobody’s going tolisten to it, but I have an opinion.
COACH HOLTZ: I really don’t know. I really don’t know.
COACH HOLTZ: I’m sorry. I can’t hear you.
COACH HOLTZ: Not yet, but I’m sure we will. I’m sure we will. Ifound that Father Bill is a rather prominent person to thefuture of this University. If you look at everything that goeswith this University and you look at the responsibilities FatherBill has, they’re rather awesome. The athletic department isjust one phase of Father Bill’s responsibilities. Whatever hisschedule will accommodate.
People think, you know, it’s just athletics. The aestheticbeauty of this campus, the academic standards, the way they’vebeen raised, the building, it’s rather fantastic. That wasn’tdone by luck. There’s been great leadership. Started with FatherHesburgh and Father Joyce, but Father Malloy and FatherBeauchamp have certainly added to that. I have to accommodatehis schedule, whenever it is.
COACH HOLTZ: I’ll bet you.
COACH HOLTZ: I’d love to play golf, but I haven’t held a golfclub but one time since the end of July. That’s the only time –three times I hit a whiffle ball in my office, but that doesn’tcount. If I was a better golfer, I might get excited about it.
I always want to go play golf. About the third hole I say, “Whyin the world would I want to do this, punish myself like this?”
I think I’m just an individual that’s got to be productive, Ithink. I think — and that’s very difficult for me to beproductive. But I’m just the type of individual, I don’t think Icould just go and prop up my feet. I don’t think I could dothat. I don’t think that’s me.
COACH HOLTZ: I want to say this. I think we all go through andthink about our future, obligations, the wives and children,universities, players and coaches. But I can tell you this,never once have I thought about what else once.
There’s nothing that excites me, whether it being go play golf,do this, do that, go into business, start my business, anythingelse. I’ve never given a single thought to anything other thanNotre Dame, nothing. And I can sit here and say thatunequivocally.
COACH HOLTZ: I just need to sit down with Father Bill and withMr. Wadsworth. The thing where y’all are missing the boat isthat it’s not that big of a deal. And I say that to yousincerely. I think it’s also a private thought that my familyand the University need to share.
There are a lot of people involved in this decision. It’s notthat big a deal. I mean, it’s not just Lou Holtz. You make itsound like it’s just Lou. It’s not Lou Holtz. Lou Holtz isinconsequential in the whole overall big picture. As I said,when I was 1-4, nobody was talking about anything. Andas I also said, there ain’t a person here naive enough to thinkI was going to coach here till the University went bankrupt. TheUniversity, the players, et cetera. That’s something that needsto be discussed on a private matter. When something is resolved,obviously you’ll be the first to know, after the rest of theworld.
Q. Are you still looking to talk about things, make up yourmind one way or the other?
A. This is not about I have a list of demands and they have alist of demands, this is wrong. I have always prided myselfon the fact to be a team man. It’s my job to please theadministration, not the administration’s job to please me. It’snot my job to please the players or the coaches, it’s their jobto please me. That’s the way it goes.
This isn’t a case where they got to make a concession oranything else for me. That’s the last thing. If you think that’seven part of it, you’re completely wrong on it. This is thesituation. I understood Notre Dame when I came here. Thatwas made abundantly clear. Father Joyce, Father Hesburgh, I’llalways be indebted to them for giving me this opportunity. Itwas made abundantly clear the way this University was run andthe role that you would play. The football coach is not aprominent player in the big picture.
COACH HOLTZ: I don’t think the surgery really changed me as muchas just daily living. I think I’m a much better person forhaving been at Notre Dame because of the type of atmosphere thatyou’re surrounded with. I can leave here five after 11:00 and goto confession at 11:15. I can go to 7:15 mass or 6:30. I canwalk by the grotto.
There’s just religion here. I mean, you look up at the Lady onthe Dome. I don’t see a football helmet on her. I don’t seefootball. I look at the dome or look at a crucifix or anythingelse along that line.
I just try to be as honest as I can. I feel I’m not a priest andI’m not an individual whose life is to convert other people. Ithink my obligation is to try to live my life as best I can andbe abundantly honest as I can. That gets me in trouble manytimes.