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Louis Leo "Lou" Holtz (born January 4, 1937) is a former football head coach. Currently an author, television commentator, and motivational speaker, Holtz is the only coach in NCAA history to lead six different programs to bowl games and the only coach to guide four different programs to the final top 20 rankings. He is also a multiple winner of National Coach of the Year honors. Over the years, the slender, bespectacled Holtz has become known for his quick wit and ability to inspire players. In 2005, Holtz joined ESPN as a college football analyst. On May 1, 2008, Holtz was elected to the College Football Hall of Famemarker.

Early life and coaching career

Holtz was born in Follansbee, West Virginiamarker. After growing up in East Liverpoolmarker, Ohiomarker, and graduating from East Liverpool High School, Holtz attended Kent State Universitymarker. He is a member of the Delta Upsilon Fraternity, played football as an undersized linebacker and graduated in 1959. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant in 1960, at Iowa, where he received his master's degree. From there, he made stops as an assistant at William & Marymarker (1961–63), Connecticutmarker (1964–65), South Carolinamarker (1966–67) and Ohio Statemarker (1968). The Ohio State Buckeyes won the national championship during Holtz's season in Columbusmarker.

William & Mary

Holtz's first job as head coach was in 1969 at The College of William & Marymarker, then playing in the Southern Conference. In 1970, he led the William & Mary Indians (now Tribe) to the Southern Conference title and played in the Tangerine Bowl. Since Holtz's tenure there, The College of William & Mary has changed to NCAA Division I-AA.

North Carolina State

In 1972, Holtz moved to North Carolina Statemarker and had a 31–11–2 record in four seasons. His Wolfpack teams played in four bowl games, going 2-1-1. Holtz received offers to become the Tulane head coach. He at first accepted the offer from David Dixon, the New Orleans Saints founder, then Holtz called Dixon saying he couldn't come to Tulane.

New York Jets

Holtz's lone foray into the professional ranks consisted of one season with the New York Jets in 1976. He resigned with one game remaining in the season after going 3–10.


Holtz went to the University of Arkansasmarker in 1977. In his seven years there, the Razorbacks compiled a 60–21–2 record and reached six bowl games. In his first season at Arkansas, he led them to a berth in the Orange Bowl against the Oklahoma Sooners, then coached by University of Arkansas alumnus Barry Switzer. The Sooners were in position to win their third national championship in four seasons, after top-ranked Texas lost earlier in the day to fifth-ranked Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl Classic. Holtz had suspended his team's top two running backs for the Orange Bowl, for disciplinary reasons. However, behind 205 yards rushing from reserve running back Roland Sales, the Hogs defeated the Sooners, 31–6. Holtz was dismissed following a 6–5 campaign in 1983.


Holtz accepted the head coach job at the University of Minnesotamarker before the 1984 season. The Golden Gophers had won only four games in the previous two seasons, but had a winning record in 1985 and were invited to the Independence Bowl, where they defeated Clemsonmarker, 20–13. Holtz did not coach the Golden Gophers in that bowl game, as he had already accepted the head coaching position at Notre Dame. His contract included a "Notre Dame clause" that allowed him to leave if that coaching job were to become available. Years later, the NCAA placed Minnesota on two years probation for 17 rule violations, two of which were committed by Holtz during his tenure.

Notre Dame

In 1986, Holtz left Minnesota to take over the then-struggling Notre Dame Fighting Irish football program. A taskmaster and strict disciplinarian, Holtz had the names removed from the backs of the players' jerseys when he took over at Notre Dame, wanting to emphasize team effort. Except for the 1988 Cotton Bowl Classic against Texas A&M and the 2008 Hawaii Bowl, names have not been included on Notre Dame's team jerseys ever since. Although his 1986 squad posted an identical 5–6 mark that the 1985 edition had, five of their six losses were by a combined total of 14 points. In the season finale against the archrival USC Trojans, Notre Dame overcame a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit and pulled out a 38-37 win over the stunned USC team.

In his second season, Holtz led the Fighting Irish to an appearance in the Cotton Bowl Classic, where the Irish lost to the Texas A&M Aggies, 35–10. The following year, Notre Dame won all eleven of their regular season games and defeated the third-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers, 34-21, in the Fiesta Bowl, claiming the NCAA Division I FBS National Football Championship. The 1989 squad also won their first eleven games (and in the process set a school record with a 23-game winning streak) and remained in the #1 spot all season until losing to Miami in the season finale. A 21–6 win over Coloradomarker in the Orange Bowl gave the Irish a second-place ranking in the final standings, as well as back-to-back 12-win seasons for the first time in school history.

Holtz's 1993 Irish team ended the season with an 11–1 record and ranked second in the final AP poll. Although the Florida State Seminoles were defeated by the Irish in a battle of unbeatens during the regular season and both teams had only 1 loss at season's end (Notre Dame lost to seventeenth-ranked Boston Collegemarker), FSU was then voted national champion in the final 1993 AP and Coaches poll. Between 1988 and 1993, Holtz's teams posted an overall 64–9–1 record. He also took the Irish to bowl games for nine consecutive seasons, still a Notre Dame record, and has referred to Notre Dame football as the "Michelangelo" of the NCAA. Notre Dame was put on two-years probation and reduction of scholarships for lavish extra benefits provided by representatives of the university to football players, and academic fraud between 1995 and 1998. The NCAA found that Holts and members of his staff learned of the violations but failed to make appropriate inquiry or to take prompt action, finding Holtz's efforts "inadequate".On September 13, 2008 Lou Holtz was invited back to the campus where a statue of the former coach was unveiled. The ceremony took place during the weekend of the Notre Dame/Michigan game, almost twenty-two years to the day when Holtz coached his first Notre Dame team against the Wolverines.

First retirement

Lou Holtz left Notre Dame after the 1996 season and walked away from a lifetime contract for undisclosed reasons, though many believe it was due in part to his wife's diagnosis with throat cancer. {citation needed | date=November 2009}He was succeeded by defensive coordinator Bob Davie.

In 1996, two members of the Minnesota Vikings's ownership board, Wheelock Whitney and Jaye Dyer, reportedly contacted Holtz. They wanted to bring him in to replace Dennis Green. Of the rumors surrounding the reasons for Holtz's retirement, one of them was the possible Vikings head coaching position.

South Carolina

After two seasons as a commentator for CBS Sports, Holtz came out of retirement in 1999 and returned to the University of South Carolinamarker, where he had been an assistant in the 1960s. The year before Holtz arrived, the Gamecocks went 1–10, and the team subsequently went 0-11, during Holtz's first season. In his second season, South Carolina went 8–4, winning the Outback Bowl over the heavily-favored Ohio State Buckeyes. The eight-game improvement from the previous year was the best in the nation in 2000 and the third best single-season turnaround in NCAA history. In his third season, Holtz's success continued, leading the Gamecocks to a 9-3 record and another Outback Bowl victory over Ohio State. The nine wins for the season were the second highest total in the history of the program. Under Holtz's leadership, the Gamecocks posted their best two-year mark in school history from 2000-2001, going 17-7 overall and 10-6 in SEC play.

After consecutive 5-7 campaigns in 2002 and 2003, Holtz finished his South Carolina tenure on a winning note (6-5 record) in 2004. Holtz's time in Columbia saw the resurrection of Gamecock Football, as the program had only one bowl appearance and no Top 25 finishes in the ten years before his hire. Upon his exit, South Carolina had posted AP Top 25 finishes in 2000 and 2001 (#19 and #13 respectively) and had made consecutive New Year's Day bowls for the first time in its history.

In 2005, the NCAA imposed three years probation and reductions in scholarships on the program for 10 admitted violations under Holtz, five of which were major. The violations involved improper tutoring and off-season workouts, as well as a lack of institutional control.

Second retirement

On November 18, 2004, Holtz announced that he would retire at the end of the season. On November 21, 2004, the South Carolina-Clemson brawl took place during Holtz' last regular season game. Instead of ending his career at a post-season bowl game, which was expected, the two universities announced that each would penalize their respective football programs for their unsportsmanlike conduct by declining any bowl game invitations. At his last press conference as South Carolina's coach, Holtz said it was ironic that he and former Ohio State coach Woody Hayes both would be remembered for "getting into a fight at the Clemson game". Holtz also alluded to his assistance in recruiting his successor, Steve Spurrier. Holtz had a losing overall and conference record at South Carolina, brought NCAA probation to the school and, according to Columbia SC sportswriter Ron Morris, left the program in shambles.


Holtz is the author of five books.
  • The Kitchen Quarterback, Parkin, 1980. ( )
  • The Fighting Spirit: A Championship Season at Notre Dame (co-written with John Heisler), Random House, 1991. (ISBN 0-671-67673-3)
  • Winning Every Day, Collins, 1998. (ISBN 0-887-30904-6)
  • Wins, Losses, and Lessons, William Morrow, 2006. (ISBN 0-06-084080-3)
  • A Teen's Game Plan for Life (revised), Sorin Books, 2007. (ISBN 1-933495-09-X)

Broadcasting career

Holtz has worked for CBS Sports as a college football analyst and currently works in the same capacity for the cable network ESPN. He works on the secondary studio team, located in Bristol as opposed to the game site. He typically appears on pregame, halftime, and postgame shows of college football games. In addition, he appears on College Football Scoreboard, College Football Final, College Football Live, SportsCenter, and the occasional game. He typically partners with Rece Davis and Mark May. Holtz came under scrutiny after referencing Adolf Hitler in an on-air comment while appearing on College Football Live in 2008. In his analysis of Michigan Wolverines head coach Rich Rodriguez, Holtz stated, "Ya know, Hitler was a great leader, too." The next day, Holtz apologized for the comment during halftime of a game between Clemson and Georgia Tech.

Personal life

Holtz married the former Beth Barcus on July 22 1961. They are parents of four children, three of whom are Notre Dame graduates. Their eldest son, Skip, is currently head football coach at East Carolina Universitymarker. Holtz is on the Catholic Advisory Board of the Ave Maria Mutual Funds, and gives motivational speeches. Coach Holtz is a member at the Augusta National Golf Clubmarker in Augusta, Georgiamarker. He is an advocate for people with speech impediments and donates his time to children who suffer from such disorders.

Collegiate coaching record


See also


  1. "Tarnished Dome; Notre Dame placed on 2 year's probation" Sports Illustrated (December 18, 1999)
  2. PHRASE WILL NOT BE REPEATED "University of Notre Dame Public Infractions Report" NCAA (December 17, 1999
  3. Vikings' owners divided on Holtz. Ron Lesko. Associated Press. November 19, 1996. copy hosted on
  4. VIKINGS' GREEN SAYS HIS TEAM'S IN HUNT Lee Shappell. Arizona Republic
  5. NCAA football records, p. 68.
  6. "Gamecocks admit 5 major infractions under Holtz" Associated Press (November 16, 2005)
  7. "Three years of probation for South Carolina", USA Today (August 24, 2005)
  8. Morris, Ron, "Still time on the clock for Spurrier", The (Columbia) State (November 10, 2009)

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