Head Football Coach Lou Holtz
Notre Dame Tenure
Holtz continually has told Irish fans he had no intention of coming to Notre Dame to earn comparisons with Hall of Fame coaches and national championship winners Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Dan Devine and Ara Parseghian. Yet the statistics he continues to produce make those comparisons inevitable.
Through nine seasons, Holtz already has chalked up 83 victories, more than the number accummulated by Parseghian (74), Rockne (74) or Leahy (71) in their first nine years on the job. Including the consensus national championship in 1988, a record 23-game winning streak that ranks as the longest in Notre Dame history, a sparkling 70-14-2 (.826) record over the last seven seasons and an overall 84-24-2 (.771) mark during those nine years-his accomplishments nonetheless have positioned him alongside those Fighting Irish coaching legends.
Those 70 wins since 1988 represent the most ever in a seven-year period at Notre Dame. The Irish matchup with Colorado in the 1995 Fiesta Bowl marked the eighth straight year Holtz has taken the Irish to one of the traditional January 1 postseason bowls (Cotton Bowl following '87, '92 and '93 campaigns, Fiesta in '88 and '94, Orange in '89 and '90, Sugar in '91)-something no other coach in the country can match. It also marked the first time in history Notre Dame has played in bowl games eight straight seasons.
The Irish have won five of their last seven postseason attempts, three of those against unbeaten opponents - West Virginia in '88, Colorado in '89 and Texas A&M in '92. Both defeats in that seven-game string came against Colorado, including a 10-9 loss to the top-ranked Buffs in the '91 Orange Bowl when Raghib Ismail's 91-yard punt return in the final minute was nullified by penalty.
If there's been a common thread to Holtz's success at Notre Dame, it's that it has come against uncommonly outstanding opposition. In his first nine seasons, nearly 43 percent of the teams his Irish have faced have been nationally ranked. In both '87 and '89, the NCAA rated the Irish schedule the most difficult in the country. In '93, the Irish defeated the top-ranked and eventual national champion team in Florida State, then-third-ranked Michigan, plus seventh-rated Texas A&M. The '92 campaign proved typical as well, as each of Notre Dame's last four wins-and five of its last six-came against ranked opponents.
The NCAA ranked Notre Dame's schedule the most difficult in the country over a five-year period from 1986-90. Holtz's nine-year record features a 28-17-2 (.617) mark against AP top 25 teams-and a 19-12-1 (.609) record against those in the top 10. Irish fans hope that success rate continues, thanks to the five-year contract Holtz signed in December 1991 to continue coaching the Irish through 1996.
Holtz has tutored a cadre of Irish all-stars-including '87 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown, plus consensus All-Americans Frank Stams, Andy Heck, Michael Stonebreaker, Todd Lyght, Chris Zorich (he won the '90 Lombardi Award), Raghib Ismail, Mirko Jurkovic, Aaron Taylor (he won the '93 Lombardi Award), Jeff Burris and Bobby Taylor. His defenses ranked among the top 17 in the country (in NCAA total defense standings) for three straight seasons beginning in '87-while his '91 team established all-time Notre Dame records for points scored and total offense yards gained.
Coaching at Notre Dame under Holtz has proved a wise career move. Eight of his Irish assistant coaches-Barry Alvarez (his Wisconsin team shared the Big Ten title in '93 and won the Rose Bowl), John Palermo, Jim Strong, Pete Cordelli, Peter Vaas, Ron Cooper, Rick Minter and Skip Holtz-have left to become college head coaches, while eight others have moved on to the National Football League.
The 58-year-old Follansbee, W. Va., native became the 27th head coach of the Fighting Irish on November 27, 1985. His mission was to wake up the echoes, to push Notre Dame back toward the national rankings where it hadn't finished since 1980. His Irish teams finished first, second and sixth in the final Associated Press polls in '88, '89 and '90 -the best three-year skein since Parseghian's team finished fifth or better in five straight seasons between '66 and '70.