Coach Holtz quits at Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — For 1 hour and 15 minutes, Lou Holtz sat on the stage of a local television station, answering questions. When he was finished, there were more questions than when he started. He sounded like a man who didn’t want to go.
Holtz could not say why he was bailing out on Notre Dame. He could not say where he was going to land. He had no plan.
“I cannot honestly give you a reason for my resignation, except to say I feel it is the right thing to do. People will say there has to be more to it than this, but believe me,” Holtz said, “there isn’t.”
He read those lines directly from a prepared statement. When he strayed from it, his answers were only slightly more revealing: It hurt to leave. He was not being pushed. It was — and he must have repeated this a dozen times — the right thing to do.
“One of the positive aspects of leaving Notre Dame at the present time is, I think I am leaving behind a solid football program and a talented team that will give the new coach a chance — and I want to reiterate, a chance — to win in his first year.”
And yet, the longer he went on, the more he reminisced, the less convincing Holtz became. It was like watching a balloon with a pinprick somewhere along the surface deflate very slowly. There was the sense that, maybe not today or even tomorrow — if he sat there long enough, eventually the truth would leak out.
“I always felt some remorse every time I left a place. But when I left,” Holtz said, “I always had a place to go to, so that built up some enthusiasm. … I don’t know how I’m going to handle not having anything to go on to.”
That is because even before Holtz knew what he wanted to do with his life, he knew exactly where he wanted to do it. At Notre Dame. But now he was leaving … simply because it was the right thing to do. Even though, nothing he said or had done indicated his feelings had changed.
As a boy growing up in East Liverpool, Ohio, Holtz was taught by the Sisters of Notre Dame. He marched out of the school at lunch, recess and dismissal to the strains of the Notre Dame fight song.
His first head coaching job was in 1969 at William & Mary. From there he went to North Carolina State, the NFL’s New York Jets, Arkansas and then Minnesota. At the last stop, he had a clause written into his contract guaranteeing him an out if Notre Dame ever called.
On Tuesday, he remembered his family’s reaction when Notre Dame finally did call — 99 wins, 11 years and one national championship ago.
“My mother felt you coached at Notre Dame until you died,” Holtz recalled. “Then you went straight to heaven.”