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Coach Lou Holtz: The Winning Strategy



Share This article Few people in the history of college sports have a greater impact than Lou Holtz. He’s the only coach ever to lead six different schools to Bowl games -- all within his first two years as head coach. You may wonder how he did it? What are the secrets to his success? Well, according to Coach, there’s really only one.

“I think everybody has to have four things in their life to be complete,” he tells The 700 Club. “First, everybody needs something to do -- something you have a passion for. Second, everybody needs someone to love. Third thing, everybody needs something to hope for -- something that you’re really striving to accomplish. But the fourth thing is everybody needs someone to believe in. In my case, it’s been Jesus Christ.”

Faith in Jesus has been a part of Coach Holtz for most of his life. He came from a poor family in Follansbee, WV. 

“All I wanted was a car, a girl, a job in the mill and five dollars. I’d never had any of them,” Coach Holtz says. “Who couldn’t want more out of life than that?”

In fact, Lou didn’t even want to go to college.

Lou Holtz“In my junior year, my high school coach told my parents I should go to college and become a coach,” he says. “I didn’t want to go to college. My mom and dad decided that would be a good idea. I said, ‘I’m not going.’ They said, ‘You are!’ So we compromised, and I went.”

That decision changed the course of Lou’s life.  He played football and majored in history. A few years later a newly married Holtz landed an assistant coaching job at William & Mary.  

 “I coached for Woody Hayes at William & Mary,” he says, “and Woody Hayes was the best fundamental coach I’ve ever seen.”

Shortly after, Woody passed the torch to Holtz.

 “Woody never put out a head coach. I was an assistant for him but went on to become a head coach. I was not successful, because I altered the basic fundamentals. Fundamental is anything you have to do on a daily basis in order to accomplish your objective.”

Once Holtz mastered coaching the fundamentals, he led William & Mary to their first Bowl game, which was the first of 22 in his career. He would go on to coach at North Carolina State, Arkansas and Minnesota.

 “I really didn’t want to go to Minnesota. It was cold,” Coach Holtz says. “Yet when I talk to them, I was willing to go there. I just had this feeling there wasn’t something right. So my family sat down (my two children, my wife and I), and we started talking about it. Everybody had a difference of opinion. We weren’t getting anywhere, and I said, ‘Tell you what, everybody's going into a separate room. We’re going to pray for a half hour for guidance.’ It was unbelievable. We came out of that room, and it was a different family. Everybody expressed themselves. I wanted to go to Minnesota, if they would put a Notre Dame clause in there.”

He would coach for Minnesota until Notre Dame offered him a job as head coach.

“Once we prayed, it was just the right thing to do,” he recalls. “Know [that] when you pray, the answers aren’t always clear. I think you just have to pray for peace and tranquility and try to make the right decision of what you think God’s plan is for you.”

Two years later Holtz got the call to coach the team of his dreams. He spent the next 11 years at Notre Dame. In that time, he led the team to the 1988 national title and nine Bowl game appearances in a row. 

 “We took a program on the bottom, and Miami had beaten us 58 to 7 the year before I got there. We took it to the very top at Notre Dame for nine straight years. We went to a January 1 Bowl -- Sugar, Cotton, Orange, Fiesta. Nobody’s done it before; nobody’s done it since. We got on top and said, ‘Let’s keep it here. Let’s maintain it.’ We did. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. There’s a rule in life that said, ‘You’re either growing or you’re dying.’”

So Coach Holtz decided to take on a new challenge. He headed to South Carolina where he led them to two Bowl games. After six seasons he retired from coaching.

The HoltzesOver the years, he’s coached lots of talented athletes, like Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, even head coach, Bill Cower. But these days you’ll find Holtz as a college football analyst on ESPN. He lives in Orlando with his wife. He continues to inspire all those around him.

“You know deep down inside we all have a faith that there’s something that should be there,” he says. “Everybody believes in something even if you’re agnostic. Even if you’re an atheist, you believe in something. When you sit down and say, ‘I truly want to follow Jesus Christ. I want to change my life, I want to give my life to Him’ … there’s a peace and a tranquility that comes through you. You’ve got to be really humble and go to Him. You say, ‘Take my life. Lead wherever You want to go.’  There’s just calmness and peacefulness [that] you can’t duplicate any other way.”

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