Legendary football coach Lou Holtz, author of 10 books and currently a college football analyst for ESPN, addressed the 2012 University of Portland spring commencement exercises over the weekend and received an honorary doctorate as part of the school’s 111th commencement. He talked with Chad Doing about life, football, and his time at ESPN.
University of Portland graduates got some words of wisdom from a sportscaster, author, motivational speaker and retired football coach. Over the weekend, a record total of 803 undergraduate students walked at the Chiles Center. This tops the University’s previous all-time high of 776 undergraduates who participated in the 2011 commencement.
Former football coach Lou Holtz delivered the motivational speech in the Chiles Center as seniors bid farewell to the University. Holtz told the graduates he lives by three basic questions: Can I trust you? Are you committed? And, do you care about me?
Holtz coached both college and professional football. He also is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and he is the only coach to ever lead six programs to bowl games. Holtz coached at the College of William and Mary, North Carolina State, University of Arkansas, University of Minnesota, University of South Carolina and Notre Dame.
He has led five universities to championships throughout his career. He is most noted for overseeing Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish during their national championship win in 1988.
Before that, though, 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. Coach Holtz talks with Chad about taking over that job and what led to that decision making process, how tasking he knew it would be and the effort and faith it took to command respect within the program. 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.
Holtz talks about the development of the program. 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 1988 national championship. Coach Holtz talks with Chad about that iconic team, how they loved each other and not just the game; the unity and the bond those guys had and still have for one another remains unmatched.
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 No. 1 spot all season until losing to Miami in the season finale. A 21–6 win over Colorado 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 College), 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.
We all know how special Notre Dame is to Coach Holtz, but just how special? Lou talks about how he’ll be buried at the school’s cemetery. Three of Lou’s four kids graduated from Notre Dame, so there’s so much pride for him in that school. He talks about how fortunate he is to have the family he does. Being such a high profile person, his family has successfully stayed out of the spotlight for the wrong reasons. His son, Skip, is the head coach at South Florida, and the tremendous amount of pride he has in his son following in his footsteps. He chides a bit, mentioning if Skip wanted to be a head coach and not a CEO of a company then he could have saved money by sending him to a state school. He continues to joke about how his boys broke windows, drew on walls and how his girl was “precious” until she turned 13, then all hell broke loose. But all kidding aside, Holtz opens up about his other kids and his 9 grandkids, which he spoils vigorously. His wife, Beth, is a stage 4 cancer survivor, who had a 10% chance to live. They’ve been married for 50 years, and he says he no longer prays for her. He prays to her. She’s his best friend.
Coach talks with Chad about his transition from coaching to the broadcast studio, originally being thrust into his current role with Reece Davis and Mark May. He jokes about Mark May and their differences of opinion and how nothing is scripted. Holtz has had the opportunity to relax a little, sporting a baby blue, cashmere sweater with the Masters logo on it; Holtz is a member at Augusta. He jokes about how his greatest achievement is winning a member to member tournament at the golf course, shooting a best, 78.
Coach Holtz wraps up the interview talking about the Oregon Ducks, their continued success and talks about his host, Eric Reveno.
A can’t miss interview, check out Lou Holtz on the MSP.