Originally created 11/19/96

Notre Dame's Holtz era ending



SOUTH BEND, Ind. - The Lou Holtz era is over at Notre Dame.

The coach will announce at his weekly news conference today that he's resigning after 11 seasons. Details were completed at a meeting Monday with athletic director Mike Wadsworth and the Rev. William Beauchamp, the university's executive vice president.

"He met with the administration and told them he's leaving," one of two university sources, who spoke on the condition they not be identified, told The Associated Press.

School spokesman John Heisler declined to confirm Holtz's resignation, saying only he had met with Wadsworth and Beauchamp. Wadsworth declined comment, and Beauchamp was not immediately available.

"They have reached a decision and it will be announced at 1 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday)," Heisler said.

Holtz's resignation ends nearly a week of speculation that he was leaving. He did nothing to deny it, saying at one point: "We can talk about this forever, but there isn't much I'm going to say. But there's a time and a place for everything."

Though there was some speculation Holtz might make his announcement earlier, Tuesday's news conference is the logical place. Local media are there, and national media participate via conference call.

With Holtz gone, speculation now turns to who will replace him. It was not immediately known if his successor would be announced Tuesday. Among the top contenders to take over college football's glamour job are Northwestern's Gary Barnett and Irish defensive coordinator Bob Davie.

The Chicago Sun-Times, citing unidentified sources, reported Monday that Notre Dame wants Barnett to succeed Holtz and has agreed to talk with him. But Barnett said such talk was premature.

"I don't think you ever say never," he said Monday. "I don't know at this point in time. I would hope Northwestern wants me here. You never know."

But Barnett, in shades of Holtz, refused to say if he'd been contacted about the job.

"I'm not confirming or denying anything at this point in time," he said.

Others mentioned include LSU's Gerry DiNardo, former UCLA coach Terry Donahue and Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez.

What Holtz, 59, will do now isn't clear, but he could be interested in returning to the NFL. One scenario has Holtz coaching the Minnesota Vikings if current coach Dennis Green leaves.

Vikings president Roger Headrick said Sunday that his team has had no official contact with Holtz.

But Headrick told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis and the Saint Paul Pioneer Press that he could not rule out that at least two board members might have discussed the former University of Minnesota coach's availability.

The 10th-ranked Irish (7-2) have two games remaining - at home against Rutgers and at Southern California. A bowl bid, probably the Orange or Fiesta, would close out Holtz's career at Notre Dame.

He is 99-29-2 at Notre Dame - six wins shy of tying Knute Rockne's Irish all-time victory record - and 215-94-7 overall. But he encountered rough times recently. Notre Dame lost 10 games in the last three seasons - more than his 1988-1993 squads lost combined.

Some have questioned if health played a role in Holtz's decision. A frail-looking man, he's had a series of health problems. He underwent emergency surgery last fall to relieve pressure on his spinal cord, a condition that could have caused paralysis if left untreated.

But he said before the season began that he'd never felt better.

"I've been more interested in doing things that maybe after 20-some years would get to be monotonous. They aren't now," he said. "I still have a burning desire to coach football."

Holtz came to Notre Dame with a reputation for reviving failing programs, and he endeared himself to the Irish faithful by rescuing Notre Dame. When he arrived in November 1985, Notre Dame had lost its place among the college elite after five mediocre seasons under Gerry Faust.

The Irish went 5-6 in Holtz's first season, but rebounded the next year to finish 8-4 and earn their first bowl bid since 1984.

In 1988, just three years after he took over, the Irish upset then-No. 1 Miami on their way to their first national championship since 1977.

Notre Dame came close to repeating in 1989, but fell to Miami in the season finale. Not even a win over top-ranked Colorado in the Orange Bowl could redeem the 12-1 Irish, and Miami won the national title.

Holtz had one more run at the title in 1993, when Notre Dame and Florida State each finished with one loss. Holtz claimed the Irish should have been No. 1 because they'd beaten the Seminoles head-to-head - the same reasoning that gave Miami the national championship in 1989.

But voters disagreed, and Notre Dame finished second to Florida State.