College Football 1986-Part 1 With BC-FBC--The New Faust
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) _ Lou Holtz eagerly waits for the moment only two dozen men before him have known - the rush of joy and fear that comes with leading Notre Dame out of the tunnel and into the unreal expectations of a new football season.
″It will be an awesome feeling. It will be emotional,″ Holtz said, ″but emotion can only carry you so far.″
Emotion carried Holtz’s predecessor, Gerry Faust, through five tumultuous seasons at South Bend with a 30-26-1 record that would have been acceptable at many schools.
But not Notre Dame. Not when the memories and the magic of Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy and Ara Parseghian are as familiar to fans as last season’s 5-6 record. It marked only the eighth losing season since Notre Dame took up football in 1887.
Already Holtz is fielding questions about next weekend’s preseason poll - whether his team will be among the Top Twenty. He says he can do without the added pressure.
″You expect Notre Dame to be in the top 20, and a lot of people pick them because they want them there. ... We want to regain some respect around the country,″ he said.
’Don’t forget, the last time Notre Dame finished in the Top 20, the young men who are freshmen now were back in the seventh grade.″
Making that list again could be difficult in Holtz’s first year. His biggest question marks are a rebuilt offensive line, and at running back, where sophomore tailback Mark Green is the only healthy candidate to replace Alan Pinkett.
″The schedule will have much to do with what we do. If you start winning, your confidence level goes up, you get publicity and then gain national ranking,″ he said. ″The difficulty of the schedule is a big challenge because of our question marks. But I think we’ll be a fun team to watch play.″
Holtz, you can bet, will be fun, even if his team isn’t.
But while he is both a magician of some note and jokester of wide repute, he has never lost sight of his mission - winning.
Holtz got his new job mostly on his 116-65-5 record through 16 seasons of coaching, most recently at Minnesota, with previous stops at Arkansas, North Carolina State and William & Mary.
But they were all merely warmups for the Irish, he said. Indeed, when he took the job at Minnesota he insisted that his contract contain an ″escape″ clause, so to speak, allowing him to leave the Big Ten school for Notre Dame.
He expects that kind of commitment from his players; most of them have it anyway by the time they arrive, he said.
″If he’s not different when he comes here,″ Holtz said, ″he’ll be different after he gets here.″
Holtz still has trouble assessing this year’s team, which opens at home against Michigan on Sept. 13.
″It is difficult to evaluate a team playing against each other,″ he said. ″Right now, the defense looks good and is ahead of the offense. Maybe the defense is that good. I don’t know.
″Maybe,″ he added, ″the offense, without a running back, isn’t that good. And no defense is that strong if you have an inept offense that can’t control the ball and constantly puts the defense in poor field position.″
Such doubts are not new to coaching, but admitting them at Notre Dame might be.
In simpler times, in the lore that is Notre Dame’s past, a coach’s impassioned plea - Rockne’s ″Win one for the Gipper″ - usually was enough.
And those coaches who lacked the inspirational touch usually could fall back on talent - Louis Salmon (1903), Elmer Layden (1932-24), Johnny Lujack (1946-47), Paul Hornung (1955-56) and Mark Bavaro (1984).
Holtz will be a quiet motivator, a man who chides others with his common sense.
″I have tremendous respect for people as athletes, and I hope we’re all on the same side,″ he said. ″I like to think the opponent is not in South Bend, but rather at Ann Arbor or East Lansing.″
End Adv Weekend Editions Aug. 16-17