Lou Holtz is good. At his very core, he is just plain ol' good. I've never met him, I've never experienced his aura in person, and I've never smelled his musk. There is something to that smile of his, though. That glimmer in his eye through his massive lenses. The gentle shade of blonde in his feathery combover. He is the silly grandfather of college football. He doesn't smoke or drink, but he's the most fun to be around at a party. He can keep up a conversation all by himself, and it's always interesting. We're blessed to share this planet with such a human.
Lou Holtz first entered my life at a very early age. I honestly can't remember a time before I knew who Lou Holtz was. My mother's side was Catholic, and my grandfather had friends and family who went to Notre Dame. Growing up in the Chicagoland area, with no good Illinois or Northwestern teams, Notre Dame was the "local" college powerhouse. My grandparents' basement was adorned with banners and posters, reading names like Knute Rockne, Dan Devine, Ara Parseghian, Frank Leahy, and yes, Lou Holtz. Undefeated records, National Championships, and dynasties were what Notre Dame was to me, and Lou Holtz shared in that history.
As I got older, and Notre Dame became the up-and-down program that it is today, Lou Holtz remained a legend on the walls of my grandparents' basement, until he began appearing frequently on ESPN as "Dr. Lou". Suddenly this legendary, voiceless coach had a very real personality, and I loved it.
The idea that a man like Lou Holtz could have ever taken a white-collar program like Notre Dame to an undefeated season and a National Championship is hilarious. Beyond belief. The stuff of comedies. Yet, it happened. Only once, but it did. Of course, if you're still reading this, and you're a South Carolina fan, then the man I love so much is a man you may very well hate with every ounce of your being.
Y'see, I didn't know about the Lou Holtz chapter after Notre Dame. South Carolina to me (and many other Northerners, for the record), was just the Carolina state that didn't have Charlotte in it. Outside of video games, my college football knowledge was limited to casually following and being disappointed by Notre Dame. I did watch quite a bit of Brady Quinn's glorious rise and fall, and I can never get those hours of my life back.
So when I found out Lou Holtz had gone on to coach at South Carolina, I was optimistic. Here was one of my favorite coaches getting to coach out his twilight years instead of just sitting in the rocking chair (or both in the case of Bobby Bowden). Instead, the flame-out he endured in his final season shadowed any success the program previously had. The two Outback Bowl victories were forgotten the second Holtz capped his last season with an all-out brawl against Clemson in the finale. This wave of new information, this history-altering news, was confusing to me. Suddenly it all made sense. Lou Holtz was always a wacky old man, even in his younger days at Arkansas. That's just the natural spirit he embodies. It's a spirit that we need filling up our television screens, especially when there's curmudgeons out there like Mark May.
I hope we get to see you again soon, Dr. Lou. I also hope I get to see proof of your doctorate at some point, but I'm in no rush.