SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) _ Bob Davie was surrounded by cheering fans as he made his way into the room to be introduced as Notre Dame's new football coach. They were still there when he left an hour later, waiting to shake his hand and get his autograph.

The Bob Davie era has officially begun at Notre Dame.

``Obviously, it's a great day for me personally and it's a great day for my family,'' Davie said Sunday. ``I promise to the Notre Dame family that I'm going to do everything in my power so that hopefully one day, people will look back on this and say it was a great day for Notre Dame football.''

Davie, Notre Dame's defensive coordinator the past three years, succeeds coach Lou Holtz in the glamour job of college football. Holtz announced Tuesday he was stepping down after 11 seasons as the Irish coach.

Davie signed a five-year contract and his hiring was announced at a campus news conference Sunday, one day after the 10th-ranked Irish defeated Rutgers 62-0 in Holtz's final home game.

It's the first head coaching job for Davie, 42, who's spent the past 20 years as a defensive assistant. He becomes the 26th coach at Notre Dame, and the first assistant to be hired as Irish coach since Terry Brennan succeeded Frank Leahy in 1954.

``I've waited a long, long time for this moment. And I can tell you, standing here, it's well worth the wait,'' Davie said. ``Words can't describe how proud and honored I am to stand here and be introduced as the next head coach at the University of Notre Dame.''

Davie became one of the top candidates as soon as Holtz resigned. He impressed the administration last year by filling in for Holtz during his emergency neck surgery and leading the Irish to a 41-0 rout of Vanderbilt.

He's well-liked by the players and has built a solid reputation as an assistant under big-name coaches like Holtz, Jackie Sherrill and R.C. Slocum. He's also an excellent recruiter, especially in all-important Texas, where he spent nine years at Texas A&M.

``I don't think the program could be in any better hands than Bob Davie's,'' quarterback Ron Powlus said. ``I'm excited. I like coach Davie a lot, and I think he's going to do great things for Notre Dame.''

Davie was the unanimous choice after athletic director Mike Wadsworth, assistant athletic director George Kelly and the Rev. William Beauchamp, the university's executive vice president, interviewed four candidates.

Northwestern coach Gary Barnett, initially thought to be the top choice, said Thursday he didn't want to be considered, but Wadsworth said they'd already reached their recommendation.

The Rev. Edward Malloy, university president, gave the final approval to hire Davie on Friday.

``Obviously, there are a lot of great coaches out there, but what was important was to get a coach that fit at Notre Dame,'' Beauchamp said. ``The main thing, I think, ... was there was a great fit with Bob Davie. He's the right person for Notre Dame.''

And Davie said Notre Dame is the right place for him, though it took him a while to figure that out. When he came to Notre Dame nearly four years ago, he spent his first six weeks alone while his family stayed in Texas.

Davie said he called his wife, Joanne, every night, telling her how homesick he was and how cold it was. But somewhere along the way, Davie began believing in the Notre Dame mystique.

He entertained thoughts of leaving to become a head coach _ he was a finalist last year for the Oklahoma job _ but Davie said he wanted to stay at Notre Dame.

``This is the greatest university and the best coaching job in football,'' he said. ``This place is different, and because of that I've come to love Notre Dame.

``I do realize the magnitude and the responsibility of this job,'' he added. ``I've coached and prepared for 20 years for this opportunity.''

Davie said he hasn't even started thinking about his staff, and won't until after the Irish play Southern California next weekend. After that, his priorities are meeting with players to talk about the team's focus and recruiting.

In the meantime, though, Davie wants to savor all that's happened in the past few weeks. When asked how it all feels, Davie told the story of his 9-year-old son, Clay.

Clay answered the phone when Davie called home Friday afternoon to say he'd gotten the job. Davie told his son to tell Joanne Davie when she got home, but no one else.

``Clay walked out of the room (after telling Joanne) and a couple minutes later Clay comes back in and says, `Dad got the head job at Notre Dame, I've got a great movie to watch tonight, we've got some great snacks. Life is good,''' Davie recalled. ``He summed it up.''