Originally created 11/23/04

Coach Holtz ends career



COLUMBIA -- With the program on what he considers to be more fertile ground, Lou Holtz retired Monday morning as the head football coach at South Carolina.

After six years of leading the Gamecocks, Holtz made the anticipated announcement at a scheduled news conference.

Holtz didn't cite any specific reasons, but told players last week that he wasn't feeling well and he wanted to make a sacrifice to be with his wife, Beth, who has battled cancer in recent years.

"It's always with mixed emotions whenever you leave somewhere," Holtz said. "There's never a good time."

Mike McGee, the school's athletics director, said he and Holtz had been talking for months about the possibility of this day, but only in recent weeks had the 67-year-old informed him of his decision.

"He told me that now is the time, that the program was on solid ground and the future looked bright," McGee said. "He leaves the game of football and Carolina much better because we had the opportunity to call Lou Holtz our coach."

His retirement makes way for the school's hiring of former Florida coach Steve Spurrier.

Spurrier, 59, is expected to be introduced at a news conference at 1 p.m. today at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Neither Holtz nor McGee mentioned Spurrier by name Monday, but the allusions were certainly present.

"I don't think they could hire a better guy than a very well known, proven winner who I play golf with," Holtz said, smiling. "There's nothing but great things ahead in the future."

Holtz reflected fondly upon his 33 years in coaching, especially his time at South Carolina, but with a bittersweet tone.

Holtz is eighth on the all-time Division I wins list with 249 victories and third on the active win-percentage list (.651).

The Gamecocks were 33-37 under Holtz, and they finished his tenure 2-15 in November against Division I-A opponents.

"I'm disappointed we did not win the championship," Holtz said. "I'm particularly disturbed by our lack of success against our rival school in the state. That's something you have to live with."

Holtz also lamented Saturday's brawl with Clemson – and the news Monday that both schools would skip bowl games – as something that might tarnish the way he is remembered.

Holtz said, for the first time, he could picture life without football, although he said his existence is now something of a blank sheet.

"We knew eventually it was going to happen," said running backs coach Dave Roberts, who coached with Holtz at Notre Dame in the 1980s and ‘90s. "Obviously I hoped it would happen about 10 years from now, but it's happening today."

Reach Travis Haney at (706) 823-3304 or travis.haney@augustachronicle.com

The early years

1969-1996

  • 216-95 in 27 years
  • 1988 national championship at Notre Dame
  • 20 bowl games, including 10 postseason wins
  • Winning records at North Carolina State, Arkansas, Notre Dame
  • Overall

  • With a.651 winning percentage, third on winningest active Division I-A coaches list
  • With 249 wins, Holtz is eighth on the all-time Division I-A coaching wins list
  • Pros

  • Re-established Notre Dame as prominent program in country, winning 1988 national title
  • Earned reputation as master motivator; speaks frequently in off-season to groups and clubs
  • Southwest Conference coach of year in 1979, when Arkansas finished 10-2 and was SWC co-champ
  • Cons

  • Left Arkansas after backing controversial politician Jesse Helms
  • Didn't coach bowl game at Minnesota in 1985 after a scandal forced his resignation
  • Departed from Notre Dame under swirl of controversy