COLUMBIA, S.C. - Supporters say Lou Holtz brought more than victories to South Carolina and many expressed grateful appreciation after the South Carolina coach announced his retirement Monday.
Holtz's coaching peers described him as "one of the greatest." Fans praised his ability to turn the program around at South Carolina and school administrators applauded the national exposure the 67-year-old coach has given them.
While Holtz dabbed his tearful eyes, those watching his speech smiled and looked on with admiration. Those that weren't there in person offered their best wishes.
"Lou Holtz has been one of the great coaches in college football history." said Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, the winningest coach in Division I. "He has brought a lot to the game and has coached some great teams. It will seem strange without him."
Penn State coach Joe Paterno said Holtz was one of the best coaches he had ever competed with.
"He has been a great credit to college football and we wish him all the best," he said.
Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, who was first a player then graduate assistant under Holtz, said the coach had a tremendous influence on his life.
"He has helped so many coaches and has touched the lives of so many young people," Nutt said.
Holtz has 249 victories during six seasons, making him the eighth-winningest coach, but he'll be remembered for more than wins. His motivational speeches have inspired everyone from businessmen to sick children.
"What he does for people off the field is what I tell people... I'll remember most because that never gets talked about," said running backs coach Dave Roberts, who was with Holtz for six seasons at South Carolina and three at Notre Dame. "Do you remember the wins? Yeah, but that gets fake.... You remember a little boy with cancer coming to Notre Dame and him taking him around. Those are the things that mean more to me."
South Carolina play-by-play announcer and former quarterback Todd Ellis called it a sad day, but said he accepted that Holtz was ready to step down.
"I also totally appreciate coach Holtz's position. I hate to lose him but I also know how hard he has worked and how much it's taken out of him this last year," said Ellis, who quarterback from 1986-89. "I'm disappointed, but I totally understand. We've certainly got a ton out of coach Holtz."
Even former and current governors of the Palmetto state offered their praise.
Holtz once spoke to current Republican Gov. Mark Sanford's Cabinet, his spokesman Will Folks said, adding that Sanford may have come away with more than inspiration.
"Coach Holtz has had a profound impact in upping the governor's football ability," Folks said. "He's become quite a route runner in the staff football we play."
Former Gov. Jim Hodges, a Democrat, said Holtz "accomplished what he came here to accomplish" and helped the program's future by working to get former Florida coach Steve Spurrier hired.
"This is about as seamlessly as you can make a coaching change," Hodges said.
More than once Monday the Lou and Beth Holtz Library Endowment was mentioned, as well as a Columbia homeless shelter named after Holtz.
"We're here today to honor a great football coach and a great man," South Carolina athletics director Mike McGee said. "To thank him for his contributions to the University of South Carolina and the entire state."
Holtz "has been more generous with his time to the people of this school and the state than any other coach I've ever known," McGee said. "And coach, for that we will always be grateful."
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