Irish should have gone with Holtz

Mike Vidakovich
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Mike Vidakovich

The members of the athletic administration at the University of Notre Dame will most likely never see this column, and if by some remote chance they do, I doubt they will put much stock in my disappointment that Lou Holtz was passed by as the school’s next football coach.

Holtz, who started his head coaching career in 1969 at the College of William and Mary and ended it at the University of South Carolina in 2004, is on a short list of the greatest coaches of my generation. The others would be John Wooden, Bobby Knight, Jerry Sloan, and Mike Krzyzewski. That’s elite company.

Holtz is no stranger to the Irish. He served as the head football coach at Notre Dame from 1986-1996. Always the taskmaster and disciplinarian, his first order of business upon arriving at the South Bend, Ind., campus was to remove the players’ names from the back of jerseys to emphasize team ahead of the individual.

In just his third season, Holtz led the Irish to a 34-21 win over West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl, which capped a perfect 12-0 season and vaulted Notre Dame to the 1988 national championship.

Holtz was robbed of a second national title in 1993 when his team finished with an 11-1 record, but a No. 2 national ranking behind Bobby Bowden’s Florida State Seminoles. The injustice with the final ranking that year lies in the fact that the Irish beat Florida State, 31-24, in a head-to-head battle during the regular season.

I still have the bumper sticker that reads: Notre Dame 31, National Champions 24.

Holtz is now in his 72nd year on Earth, and he works for ESPN as a college football analyst, so it would have been tough to convince him to return to the sidelines anyway.

The Irish have chosen Cincinnati’s Brian Kelly as their next coach, but I doubt he will come close to matching the spirit that Holtz brought to Notre Dame during his 11-year tenure.

• The Colorado Buffs already have the right coach in the fold, but it’s certainly not Dan Hawkins. I’m referring to CU men’s basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik. The roundball Buffaloes are off to a good start in spite of narrowly missing out on upsets of Gonzaga, Arizona, and Oregon State.

Bzdelik coached the Denver Nuggets from 2002-2004, but was relieved of his head coaching duties, primarily for clashing with young star Carmelo Anthony. Bzdelik wanted Anthony to focus less on his personal point total, play more defense, rebound, and pass the ball every so often.

Shame on you, coach.

Look for Bzdelik and the Buffs to land in the NIT this year, with bigger things to come in the near future once their youthful lineup matures.

• A salute to Texas Tech basketball coach Pat Knight for his actions in a close game last week against Washington. In the waning moments of Tech’s upset of the No. 10-ranked Huskies, the student section in Lubbock, Texas, started to taunt the visitors from Seattle by chanting, “Overrated!”

Knight immediately went to the students, raising and lowering his arms until the taunting stopped and the crowd went back to just cheering for their team.

Showing class and respecting your opponent and the game. A lost art in the modern age of sport.

• And wouldn’t it have been just dandy if Nebraska had held on to beat Texas in the Big 12 championship game?

The funny thing is that Texas is going to play Alabama for college football’s mythical national championship, but it’s not even the top team in its own state. Because of the BCS system, the best in the Lone Star State won’t get the chance to prove it.

That would be Texas Christian University.

Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer.

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