Lou Holtz: Still Teaching After All These Years

By Tom O'Toole
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

National Catholic Register correspondent Trent Beattie’s recent interview with former Notre Dame head coach and current ESPN analyst, Lou Holtz, reminded me of my own three interviews with him. While in some ways there’s not much “new” with “Dr. Lou,” it’s amazing to see him still teaching the Faith after all these years.

Asked about the religious sisters who taught him in grade school, Holtz says, “The Sisters of Notre Dame at St. Aloysius Grade School influenced my life tremendously. This was due to the fact that they encouraged you always to make sure that God is the focus of your life, and they didn’t allow you to do anything except to the very best of your ability.” By high school, Holtz was praying to God daily — to make him into a super jock! While it didn’t quite work out that way, Holtz said it worked out BETTER:

“I used to pray that God would make me a great athlete, and he never did. Yet he put me in the coaching profession, where I’ve experienced 45 years of being involved in great games and competitiveness and having a positive influence on other people’s lives. Had I been a great athlete, I’m not sure I would have even gone into coaching. I may have turned out feeling that my life ended when my athletic career ended…I do know this: God does answer your prayers, but it’s not always in the way you expect.”

When asked about his favorite memories at Notre Dame, Holtz first says that question is “impossible to answer,” but then goes on to say that’s because “[e]very single day being there was very special because there were so many opportunities to encounter and live out the Catholic faith. Mass and confession were always available, and you could pray the Rosary at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.” Of course Holtz then goes on to list “having three of my four children graduate from that fine university and then one of them getting a second degree from the law school. Just being on campus and being able to represent Notre Dame through football are great memories, but I think the statue they built of me and dedicated in 2008 has to rank up there as well. That was a very humbling experience.”

Holtz then goes on to talk about the nitty-gritty things in his life; his 50 plus year marriage to Beth Holtz, and his Catholic faith.

“[Beth] has been there through good times and bad, and no one has been more supportive of me. Her loving attention and candor have helped me more than I can say. We’ve always done things as a team, not just me going my own way. That’s essential if you want your marriage to work, and…it has been more than 50, thanks be to God…I think the Catholic Church is infallible when it comes to religious principles [on faith and morals]. That’s what I was taught by the Sisters of Notre Dame growing up, and I believe that to this day. Do I agree with the practical decisions of Church leaders on some things? Certainly not. But, by the same token, I try to follow the Catholic teachings. That’s what brings meaning and lasting happiness to life.”

“I follow three rules: Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care,” Holtz summarized. “Another way of seeing it is that anything great you do achieve will be for others, in the sense that helping other people realize their potential is what achieving is all about. It’s not a one-man show; it’s about contributing to the good of the team. That’s how you have to see it.”

And that’s just how I came to see it, after receiving the following letter from Holtz just days before his resignation from Notre Dame:

October 31, 1996

Dear Tom:

Thank you very much for your letter. I really appreciated the article you sent.

It is easy to see why you are successful, Tom, because you pay great attention to detail and let absolutely nothing slip by you.

I consider you a true friend.



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