Lou Holtz has established himself as one of the most successful college football coaches of all time.
Born Louis Leo Holtz on Jan. 6, 1937, Holtz grew up in East Liverpool, Ohio, just up the Ohio River from Follansbee, West Virginia, his birthplace. He graduated from East Liverpool High School, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in History from Kent State in 1959 and a master’s degree from Iowa in Arts and Education in 1961. He played linebacker at Kent State for two seasons before an injury ended his career. He has received 14 honorary doctorate degrees.
Holtz is the only coach in the history of college football to: 1) Take six different teams to a bowl game; 2) Win five bowl games with different teams; 3) To have four different college teams ranked in the final Top 20 poll.
Despite never inheriting a winning team, he compiled a 243-127-7 career record that ranked him third in victories among active coaches and eighth in winning percentage. His 12 career postseason bowl victories ranked him fifth on the all-time list. Holtz was recently selected for the College Football Hall of Fame, class of 2008, which places him in an elite group of just over 800 individuals in the history of football who have earned this distinction. Approximate 1 in 5,000 people who played college football or coached it make it into the Hall of Fame. In April 2012, Coach Holtz was inducted into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame.
The Follansbee, West Virginia, native became the 27th head coach of Notre Dame following two seasons at Minnesota (1984 to ‘85), seven at Arkansas (1977 to ‘83), four at North Carolina State (1972 to ‘75) and three at William & Mary (1969 to ‘71). He spent the 1976 season as head coach of the New York Jets of the National Football League. Twenty-one of the 26 collegiate teams under his direction have earned post-season bowl invitations—and 14 have finished in the final AP top 20, eight in the top 10 (not including the 1995 finish in that category).
Holtz’s head-coaching career began in 1969 at William & Mary at age 32. His second team in 1970 won the Southern Conference title and advanced to play 15-ranked Toledo in the Tangerine Bowl in the only postseason appearance in the history of the school. Holtz’s stab at professional football—between his tenures at North Carolina State and Arkansas produced a 3-10 record. He resigned the week of the Jets’ final regular season game.
Before becoming head coach at William & Mary in 1969, Holtz served as an assistant coach at Iowa (freshmen, 1960), William & Mary (offensive backs, 1961 to 63), Connecticut (defensive backs, 1964 to 65), South Carolina (defensive backs, 1966 to 67) and Ohio State (defensive backs, 1968). The Buckeyes won the national championship in 1968 in his one season on the Ohio State staff. He worked under such respected coaches as Forest Evashevski at Iowa, Rick Foranzo at Connecticut, Paul Dietzel at South Carolina and Woody Hayes at Ohio State.
When Holtz took over as Notre Dame’s 27th head football coach back in November of 1985, he brought with him a well-proven reputation as a fixer of football programs following a series of spectacular repair jobs at William & Mary, North Carolina State, Arkansas and Minnesota.
Twenty-six seasons as a collegiate head coach earned Holtz a sterling reputation for turning pretenders into contenders—for taking football programs and elevating them a level or two on their way to the top 20. But nowhere has he done this as impressively than at Notre Dame.
He enhanced that track record quickly, needing only two years to put the Fighting Irish back into a major post-season bowl game for the first time in seven seasons. Holtz proved he could take the Irish back to the ranks of college football’s elite and keep them there on a consistent basis.
He also has developed a well-earned reputation as an expert when it comes to knocking off highly ranked opponents. That ability has been particularly well displayed in bowl games, with his team recording wins on January 1 in five of the last seven seasons against teams with a combined record of 74-4-1, all of them ranked seventh or higher in the Associated Press poll.
In his 11 seasons at Notre Dame, Holtz chalked up more victories than the number accumulated by Parseghian, Rockne or Leahy in their first 11 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. An overall 100-30-2 mark during those 11 years—his accomplishments nonetheless have positioned him alongside those Fighting Irish coaching legends. When the Fighting Irish met Florida in the 1996 Orange Bowl, it was the ninth straight year Holtz had taken Notre Dame to the traditional January post-season bowls (Cotton Bowl following 1987, 1992 and 1993 campaigns, Fiesta in 1988 and 1994, Orange in 1989, 1990 and 1995, and Sugar in 1991). This is something that no other coach in the country has matched. Holtz is the 2008 recipient of the Notre Dame Monogram Club’s highest honor, the Moose Krause Distinguished Service Award.
After his departure from Notre Dame following the 1996 season, he joined CBS Sports’ College Football Today for two seasons as a sports analyst and worked with United States Filter (a global provider of water treatment) as a customer relations spokesman. From there, he went on to be head coach at the University of South Carolina for six seasons from 1999-2004 where he led the Gamecocks to back-to-back January 1 bowl games for the first time in the history of the school and defeated Ohio State in consecutive bowl appearances.
ESPN Sports Analyst
Holtz served as a college football studio analyst on ESPN from 2004-2015. He appeared on ESPNEWS', ESPN College GameDay programs, SportsCenter as well as an on-site analyst for college football games.
For many years Holtz has been considered among the greatest speaking legends in America today. He speaks on overcoming seemingly impossible challenges by setting your own goals and working to achieve them.
He has built a reputation as a motivator, a demanding disciplinarian and someone who relishes challenges and hard work.
Holtz has authored three New York Times best-selling books The Fighting Spirit that chronicled Notre Dame's 1988 championship season and Winning Everyday: A Game Plan For Success (August 1998), which has been published in several languages. His latest book which was released Aug. 15, 2006, is Wins, Losses and Lessons, an autobiography of his life and the lessons he has learned, and is also a best seller.
Additionally, he has produced three highly acclaimed motivational videos: Do Right, Do Right II, and If Enough People Care. The Lou Holtz Hall of Fame opened in East Liverpool, Ohio, in July 1998. And he recently released his latest video, Do Right 20 Years Later.
The Walter Camp Football Foundation, an award that is presented annually to an individual who has attained a measure of success and been a leader in his chosen profession, named Lou Holtz 1998’s "Man of the Year". This is the second time Coach Holtz has been saluted by the organization named for the legendary Father of American Football. In 1977, while in Arkansas, he was named Coach of the Year.
Married to Beth Barcus of East Liverpool on July 22, 1961, Holtz and his wife are the parents of four children and currently reside in Orlando, Florida.