I will always cherish the fact that I had the opportunity to be a representative of Our Lady’s school, both on and off the field. To a Catholic, no man could ask for a more important role in life. –Lou Holtz, former head football coach, University of Notre Dame
[tweet https://twitter.com/ESPNDrLou/status/242789133343391744 align='center']
When I first heard of former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz’s September 3 tweet, I laughed and replied, “Only eleven?” For the uninitiated, the former Irish coach and current ESPN commentator has always been an unabashed Notre Dame backer in his playful bouts with colleague Mark May. In fact, Holtz has only failed to predict a Notre Dame win one time, and that was when they played a South Florida team coached by his son Skip Holtz. But then I thought that Holtz not picking Notre Dame in all its games this year was a subtle hint of his discontent, and there was more to his ND tweet than meets the eye.
True, few fans batted an eye last season when Holtz backed Skip’s South Bulls over Notre Dame, figuring even the most die-hard fan can’t root against his own son. But a minority of Irish fans, citing the frequency Holtz referred to Notre Dame as “Our Lady” (what the French term means in English) or “Our Mother,” figured that Lou would remain neutral in this battle, and that this was a quiet commentary on the University’s recent decline in Catholicity.
While it’s no secret that Holtz had disagreements with Kevin Rooney, the director of admissions at Notre Dame, few realize that several of their arguments centered on the Catholic recruits. As Holtz stated in his book Wins, Losses, and Lessons, “I believed we had a great opportunity to create a dynasty at Notre Dame if we did nothing more than recruit from every Catholic high school in the country.”
Instead, because of the office’s almost prejudicial standards against them, Holtz said “we had very little success in recruiting Catholic men into our program, which I didn’t understand.” I’m not suggesting Lou Holtz had any influence in getting standout Aaron Lynch to transfer to South Florida when he left Notre Dame this spring, but there is some poetic justice in the situation.
While Holtz never publicly stated why he left Notre Dame, it would be hard not to conclude that his relationship with then Irish athletic director Mike Wadsworth had something to do with the decision. Unlike his AD predecessors, Holtz said Wadsworth “did not speak [to me] at all,” and was extremely upset when Wadsworth not only named Bob Davie (Holtz preferred someone with head coaching experience) his successor, but went against Holtz’s direct request by naming Davie coach before the end of Holtz’s last season.
Holtz also never said publicly that Notre Dame football was “living a lie,” the line ESPN columnist Rick Reilly attributed to him in his recent Notre Dame diatribe. But Holtz’s insights do make you wonder if Reilly heard him say it in private, and notwithstanding Reilly’s lack of integrity in repeating it, shows a Holtz more in love with Notre Dame’s past than its present.
Holtz already has determined that he and his wife Beth “will be buried at Notre Dame…on a beautiful hillside overlooking Our Lady on the Golden Dome.” I only hope that Holtz’s words on what Notre Dame needs to do to improve both its team and its school are not buried with them.