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HOLTZ: The tarnished Gold Standard

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Guest SirJohn

From the South Bend Tribune.


Holtz is right. After #1 the only way is down. (USC No one wins forever)



December 09. 2005 6:59AM


A tarnished gold standard

According to former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz, success with the Fighting Irish can lead to a negative direction.




Tribune Staff Writer




SOUTH BEND -- Lou Holtz still considers the 1989 Irish football team his best during his 11-year run at Notre Dame's head football coach (1986-96).


Not the 1988 national championship team.



But 1989 was one of his most trying years as a coach too, in part because of the '88 title captured by his Irish in the Fiesta Bowl against West Virginia.


"Ara Parseghian told me when I got the job that this job is different than any other job you've ever had," Holtz related during last weekend's visit to South Bend. "And he said if you win the national championship, it'll change again. And it was different."



First-year Irish coach Charlie Weis may already be starting to feel a little of that -- and Weis hasn't won a national title or even played for one. His fifth-ranked Irish (9-2) square off against No. 4 Ohio State (9-2) in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2.


"No. 1 the demands on your time change," Holtz said. "But here's what happens in all due respect to the media, which I'm a member now. The story is building up (to the national title).


Once, you're here," Holtz said, holding his hand high above his head, "there's only one story."


Then he made a plunging motion with his hand.


"(From that point on,) everything's negative, no matter what you do," Holtz said. "And then there's the demands, and everybody gets fired up to play you -- the excitement, the expectations. But you wouldn't want it any other way. And that's what makes Notre Dame special, the interest, the demands and the standards."


Holtz leftovers


The former Irish coach met with the media last Friday before delivering a stirring 15-minute speech at the football banquet.


Among the topics he discussed:


On winning the national championship: "You don't win a national championship. You really don't. You wake up one day and you are the national champion. You take care of things that come along, and just so many things happen during the course of the season.


"To win a national championship in basketball, there's one game in the tournament that's going to come down to the last shot. Same thing when you win a national championship in football. There's going to be a game where things go your way.


"Miami would be that case (for us)," Holtz said of the 31-30 Irish victory in 1988. "They go for two, and they don't make it. You also have a telling drive that designates your season. Southern Cal's telling drive (this year) was the one against Notre Dame. Texas' telling drive was the one against Ohio State in the last two minutes of the football game."


On retiring from coaching at South Carolina: "I was going to retire two or three years earlier, and they talked me out of it."


On unsung heroes on the 2005 Irish: "The unit I don't think got enough recognition was the offensive line.


On coaching at Notre Dame: "I was proud to have served here. I say serve, because when you coach somewhere, it's usually your team. Not here. At Notre Dame, you're just the caretaker of the team until somebody else comes along."


Clearing the air?


Steve Spurrier, you've got some 'splaining to do.


And the South Carolina head coach was more than willing to discuss why he voted Notre Dame 14th in the final USA Today coaches college football poll -- eight spots lower than where ND eventually ended up (sixth) and lowest of any of the 62 coaches on the panel.


"They hadn't really beaten anybody," Spurrier told Pat Dooley of the Gainesville (Fla.) Sun earlier this week. "They didn't hardly beat anybody with a winning record.


"Personally, I think it's a crying shame why they allow them to go 9-2 and play for the big money. I'll always nudge them down a little in my poll. I just don't think it's fair, but college football isn't fair. Why do we have to treat those guys differently?"


ND's Weis, meanwhile, was one of 51 coaches that did not have South Carolina ranked at all. Of the 11 who did vote for the Gamecocks, eight of them voted them 25th. Spurrier gave South Carolina its highest placement, at No. 21.


By George, it's O'Leary and Weis


Who would have ever guessed the two coaches who sandwiched the Tyrone Willingham Era of Notre Dame football would be two of the six finalists for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award this winter?


Central Florida second-year coach George O'Leary, whose Notre Dame tenure last less than a week in December of 2001, and Weis, ND's first-year coach, are joined on the ballot by Texas' Mack Brown, USC's Pete Carroll, Penn State's Joe Paterno and UCLA's Karl Dorrell.


The winner will be revealed at halftime of the Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 2 in Tempe, Ariz. The award is sponsored by the Football Writers Association of America.


The road ahead


Notre Dame will have its second bowl practice of the postseason on Saturday. That's probably the day it will be revealed whether suspended senior running back Rashon Powers-Neal will be reinstated to the team.


Powers-Neal was suspended by the university following a Oct. 8 arrest in Minnesota for driving under the influence.

At ND's first bowl practice on Dec. 3, injured players Ronald Talley and D.J. Fitzpatrick did not participate in drills. The defensive end and kicker/punter are not expected back until ND's third bowl practice, on Dec. 19.


Injured defensive tackle Pat Kuntz, running back Justin Hoskins, defensive end Chris Frome and linebacker Abdel Banda were all at the Dec. 3 practice, but on exercise bikes.


The Irish are taking finals Dec. 12-16, then are being given two days off Dec. 17-18. ND will practice once on the 19th, twice on the 20th, once on the 21st, twice on the 22nd and once on the 23rd before breaking for Christmas.


Bowling for numbers



Notre Dame Alumni Association executive director Chuck Lennon was quoted in Wednesday's editions of the Arizona Republic as saying the school's ticket office had received 52,000 alumni requests for tickets to be drawn from the school allotment of 15,000 tickets. But associate athletic director John Heisler said the 52,000 figure is premature. The ticket office didn't stop taking requests until 5 p.m. on Thursday. The school will release the figures once the requests are counted up.



Neither Ohio State, nor Notre Dame has a particular impressive bowl record. The Buckeyes are 17-19, while Notre Dame is 13-13. But Ohio State is on a three-game bowl win streak and is 3-0 in BCS games, while the Irish are on a seven-game bowl losing streak and lost in their only previous BCS appearance.



For all the offensive superlatives the 2005 Irish team produced, the defense actually had its turn in ND's 38-31 survival of Stanford on Nov. 26. The minus-11 rushing yards was the best rushing defense number the Irish have produced in 37 years and the fourth-most in history.


The 1964 Irish hold the record of minus-51 yards, set in 1964 against Wisconsin in Ara Parseghian's very first game as ND's head coach.



Staff writer Eric Hansen: ehansen@sbtinfo.com (574) 235-6470

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