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Shaking down the thunder.

The glory that was Notre Dame shines again, thanks to Lou Holtz, who has made the Fighting Irish America's No. 1 football team.

It is March 17, Saint Patrick's Day, near South Bend, Indiana. Lou Holtz is seated before a desk-top pile of clutter that reveals the mundane side of coaching the nation's best football team. Outside, an atmosphere of Fighting Irish revelry prevails. Notre Dame owns the national championship for the first time on Saint Patrick's Day in almost ten years.

Holtz's mood, however, is reflective. "The years after the war were the best years of my childhood," Holtz says. "I was eight or nine when the war ended and everybody came back from the service. There was a feeling of euphoria. My father and my uncles were with us again, and we were very happy. The family was together. Unfortunately, we Americans don't seem to have that family spirit today. Other things have gotten too important."

But such is not the case here at Notre Dame, for the family feeling here is almost palpable, and as much so in Lou Holtz's office as it is anywhere. From the visual remembrances of his own family (two of his four children are students here) and the Notre Dame football family, to the statue of the Catholic Church's Holy Mother, Notre Dame herself, the office speaks loudly and clearly of the importance of family. "When you're in a family, you learn two things," the two-time National Coach of the Year expounds. "You learn, number one, that you're special. People make you feel special, But you also learn that you are expected to make a contribution to that family. And that is very much a part of life here at Notre Dame."

Holtz reaches to the floor alongside his desk, searching for a "Letter to the Next Generation" he has written for Time magazine. He is proud of the letter. It is all about family.

As he gropes without success, an elderly alumnus wearing a baseball cap emblazoned with the proclamation "Holtz Is Irish!" eases selfconsciously past the football office hoping to get a peek at the legend-inthe-making.

This older man, too, is "family." For Notre Dame's family, spreading from the sunshine alumni of Kaneohe, Hawaii, to the subway alumni of Brooklyn, New York, is a vast group of fans.

Holtz produces the copy, hidden among hefty stacks of folders and sheets. One paragraph stands out: "The strength of a society is not found in the comforts of living but in its values, morals, and concern for its fellow men. I believe that these principles are predominantly developed in the family."

The passage on family denotes the teacher in Lou Holtz, and above anything else he is that. It is evident in his writing, in his speaking, and in his coaching. He thrives on teaching. And he is very good at it. His motivational tapes are bestsellers, and his inspirational speeches make him one of the nation's most soughtafter speakers.

"I do not believe a coach is anything more than a teacher," he proclaims, sweeping aside an unkempt mound of smoking pipes that belie his orderly mind. "If you're a good teacher, you'll be a good coach. If you're a good coach, you'll be a good teacher. And to be good at either, you've got to have discipline. There is no way people can teach, or people can learn, if it's not in a disciplined environment. And discipline, by the way, is not what you do to people, it is what you do for them."

And Lou Holtz, the coach and the teacher, does have discipline. In fact, a single disciplinary action on his part won him nationwide respect as a coach and contributed greatly to his eventual hiring at Notre Dame. Before the 1977 Orange Bowl between his Arkansas Razorbacks and the second-ranked Oklahoma Sooners, Holtz suspended three players who had that season scored most of Arkansas' touchdowns. The athletic powers-that-be at Notre Dame would take note of such integrity. Ironically, Holtz's Razorbacks defeated the Sooners 31-6 in that year's Orange Bowl, giving his own team a third-place finish in the final rankings-and helping send the national championship to the team that would defeat Texas in the Cotton Bowl: Notre Dame.

"When it comes to discipline here," Holtz says, "We ask three questions: Will it make him a better man? A better student? A better athlete? If the answer is yes, we make him do it. The next step is up to him. An individual has a choice when you discipline him: either to become bitter or better."

Judging by his squad's record, Holtz's charges have become better men. But all is not as serious with Lou Holtz as his sometimes stern manner might imply. There is also the comical Lou Holtz, whose quick, self-deprecating humor elicits bursts of laughter.

That humor shone through at last year's national championship Fiesta Bowl game when Holtz was asked if he had ever met West Virginia's coach, Don Nehlen. "Yes," he replied. "I played against him in college. He ran the ball out of bounds and knocked me off the bench."

At William and Mary, where Holtz coached during the early 1970s, someone asked him if he could see the light at the end of the tunnel now that he had won a big game. "We've got to be careful," he quipped. "The light at the end of the tunnel might be an oncoming train."

And few football fans will soon forget the one-liner he used after fans began heaving oranges onto the field during the game with Southern Methodist that clinched the Orange Bowl berth for his '77-'78 Arkansas squad. He looked to the sky philosophically and remarked, "I'm glad we aren't at the Gator Bowl."

The Irish coach is not as diminutive as he appears to be on television, where he is often seen standing next to players who are more than 6'6 ". When he rises ftom his desk to stretch away the aftereffects of a morning's paperwork, he stands close to 6'0 ": lean and militarily upright. "You know," he says, whisking away some dust specks from an otherwise impeccable tan shirt, "I'd just like to be a dumb coach who wins a couple of national championships."

It is vintage Lou Holtz. He is not one to let his words speak louder than his actions. "I graduated near the bottom of my class," he says, retaking the seat behind his desk. "I never had a date in high school. . . . I was not a very good athlete. . . . My own alma mater wouldn't hire me. . . ." And on and on.

And then he smiles. His failures are insignificant compared to his successes, and he knows they are. During his 19 years as a head football coach, he has done some remarkable things. In his first year at Arkansas, his team went 11 -1 and finished third in the nation. In his 7 years there, he compiled an exceptional 60-21-2 won-lost-tied record. At North Carolina State, his four teams produced the best fourseason record in the history of the school. And at Minnesota, he took a team that had lost 17 straight conference games and led it to a winning season in a matter of months.

Is this affable winner the product of a happy childhood? "Yes, very," he says emphatically. "I was a Depression child. We were really poor, but I was very happy. I was the only nephew, and I particularly remember how special my aunts and uncles made me feel. It was a time when materialistic things weren't important. Even though we didn't have much, we were very happy."

"You have created a list of 100 goals for yourself," the interviewer begins, turning the focus from the past to the present. "One hundred and seven," Holtz interjects quickly. Then he pauses a moment before adding, "When you sit down and set goals like this, you don't do it to impress other people. You don't decide to do something so you can say, 'I did it, and you didn't.' You do it because you want to do it. . . . I want to make a holein one, see the Pope, go to the White House for dinner, be on 'The Tonight Show,' see all my children graduate from college, float down the Snake River, jump out of an airplane. . . . I'd like to do that soon. . . . I just don't know if I'll have the courage."

The latter aspiration brings to mind celestial thought: Is Lou Holtz religious? "I am, yes. I was raised a Catholic, and I am a Catholic. I don't preach religion, and I don't wear it on my chest. I do have a strong faith in God, and I like to think it's the only way I can make it through. With all the demands and expectations and frustrations in coaching, I'd have a hard time making it any other way.

"In fact, on our football team, the first rule we have is: Do right. If you have any doubts, get out the Bible. We're not here to convert people to Catholicism, but we do operate, both the school and the team, on sound Christian values."

What was his reaction to the phone call when he was informed he'd be the next head coach of the Fighting Irish? "Emotionally, I was quite surprised," he says. "The call came completely out of the dark ftom Gene Corrigan, the athletic director. I didn't even know that Gerry Faust had resigned. My first thought was, Gee, I can't believe it! What an honor! Then I started to think about the responsibility, and that was a bit shocking too."

When he leaves Notre Dame 15 or 20 years from now. . . . Holtz laughs loudly at the prospect of such longevity. When he leaves Notre Dame, what would he like to look back on and say he did? "Well, when I came here, I did not come to be a Rockne or a Parseghian or a Leahy," he ventures. "I never want to be compared to those people, because it's hard enough having a good self-image without being compared to great people, so I don't wish to leave here as anything but a guy who believed in Notre Dame and tried to add to its traditions and values. I would like them to say he brought credit to the Lady on the Dome."

On this Saint Patrick's Day there is much rejoicing. The community will, in a few hours, honor the championship team with a gala celebration in its Century Center, and tonight the University of Notre Dame will hold an athletic banquet that many will call the greatest in its history.

The echoes have been revived. The glory is back. The family is intact. Thanks to Lou Holtz.
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Title Annotation:Lou Holtz has returned Notre Dame football to prominence
Author:Kingdom, Gerry
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Sep 1, 1989
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