The Complicated Story of Lou Holtz at Notre Dame, Part 3 of 3



With Lou Holtz being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, days after the University of Notre Dame publicly distanced themselves from the man, we present Holtz’s story at ND, in three parts.

“The world needs a university grounded in a commitment to love one’s neighbor – to debate how prosperous societies will respond to the grinding and dehumanizing poverty in which so much of the world lives.”

-Father John I. Jenkins

“I don’t want to speak your language, I don’t want to celebrate your holidays, I sure as hell don’t want to cheer for your team.”

Lou Holtz, Republican National Convention, 2016

What is the role of a Catholic university?

Better yet, what is the responsibility of a Catholic university with a tradition deeply rooted in football to uphold the principles of its faith?

Notre Dame is a storied program that has contributed prominent resources towards perpetuating and preserving Holtz’s folklore.

Throughout his career, Holtz has stood in opposition to what Notre Dame has valued about itself. On the concept of paying student-athletes in 2015, Father Jenkins said to the New York Times, “our relationship to these young people is to educate them and help them grow. Not to be their agent for financial gain.”

Yet right outside the stadium stands a statue of a man who illegally facilitated and ensured financial gain for players during his time in South Bend.


“Be the kind of person who not only understand the injustices of this life, but is also willing to do something about them.”

-Father Ted M. Hesburgh, Commencement address at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

“I’m going to make her cry. I’m going to sing Dixie until she cries”. – Senator Jesse Helms in an elevator to Carol Moseley-Braun, the first African American woman elected to the Senate

In recent moments, Notre Dame has made an effort to distance itself from coach Holtz following his comments at the 2020 Republican National Convention.


However, after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Notre Dame issued the following statement:

“Lou Holtz is among America’s greatest college football coaches, leading Notre Dame to a national championship in 1988. But his contributions off the field have been equally inspiring, bringing attention and support to his hometown, alma mater, Catholic Charities, the Women’s Care Foundation, the Center for Homelessness in South Bend, and other worthy organizations through his charitable foundation…

We presented Lou with an honorary degree in 2011 for his service on and off the field to Notre Dame and beyond, and we join now with his family and many friends in offering our sincere congratulations on this honor.”

The convergence of communities at Notre Dame around football has created idolaters who worship at the altar of amateur sports. These idolaters influence universities to prioritize trophies over their core mission.

the grotto notre dame football

There is a belief that this isn’t the case at Notre Dame, that the institution is unique. The university believes itself first and foremost to be an educational institution, one that is supplemented by athletics as a means to enrich and educate their students.

In choosing to preserve the legacy of Lou Holtz, for his contributions as a coach, while also willfully ignoring the reputational damage he caused the university during and after his career, does not make Notre Dame unique.

To choose to reward and commend Holtz makes Notre Dame no different from the football-first, non-religious universities with relaxed academic standards that it believes to be above.

In doing so, Notre Dame is failing to comply with its mission to be a great Catholic university known for research, a place where intellect and religion converge to unify, enlighten, and heal the world.

During the Republican National Convention, Lou Holtz said he asked athletes at Notre Dame if they didn’t show up, who would miss them and why?

The question for Notre Dame is if Lou Holtz didn’t revive the football program’s legacy in 1988, would it miss him and why?

For part one of this series go here. For part two, click here.


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  1. Nathan, you would crawl over a barbed wire fence to vote democrate. Transparency is glaring.

  2. bs

  3. Coach Holtz improved and enhanced more lives through his words AND actions than you will ever be able to count. He, perhaps like many of us, sees the words and promises being made by the Democratic leaders of today for what they are. Cut and pasted, verbatim, out of Fidel Castro’s political promises to the people of Cuba many years ago. Perhaps, like many of us, we are not ok with that. Perhaps, Lou is a good man who has done great things for many lives. Perhaps you, sir, are just the latest to fall in line with the rest of the “uneducated with opinions” to find it easier to highlight someone’s faults and errors to bring them down to your level, rather than bringing yourself up to theirs. Find something positive to say, educate yourself, and you will find that your concerns will not fall on deaf ears when attempting to improve your life and influence those around you.

  4. Nathan, nope don’t know her? Go Irish! There’s two kind of people, those that are ND fans and those that wish they were!

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