Lou Holtz is telling everyone he doesn’t want a big fuss over his final game at Notre Dame Stadium. So far, no one’s listening.
More than 2,000 people greeted Holtz with a standing ovation when he was introduced at Friday’s Quarterback Club luncheon, and the crowd would have been larger if more tickets were available. Embarrassed, he tried to quiet them by starting his speech, but his words were drowned out by chants of “Lou, Lou.”
At a pep rally Friday night, Holtz was greeted with another standing ovation from a crowd of about 15,000. Despite his attempts to quiet them, the applause lasted for almost 5 minutes.
“This is not a victory lap,” he said. “We’re here to play a football game, a very important football game against Rutgers. We’re not here to reminisce, we’re not here to talk about what has happened. We’re not here to do anything else but support our football players.”
But even Holtz’s players aren’t listening.
“I think we’ll all be fired up,” tailback Autry Denson said. “We want to win it for him.”
Holtz announced Tuesday that he is stepping down after 11 seasons as the Irish coach, and Saturday’s game between No. 10 Notre Dame (7-2) and Rutgers (2-7) will be his final home game. The Irish are 41-point favorites, and a victory would be Holtz’s 100th at Notre Dame.
But none of that is important, he said.
“This is no tribute to Lou Holtz or to anybody else,” he said. “This is a football game and we need to stay focused and keep that first and foremost in mind. We owe that to the University of Notre Dame.”
At the pep rally, some booed when Holtz mentioned athletic director Mike Wadsworth. Holtz responded with a fiery rebuke to those who think the decision to leave was not his.
“If somebody thinks I was run out of here, or I’m leaving because of somebody here, nobody at Notre Dame would be that small and that petty,” he said as people cheered. “I thank God I had the opportunity to work with everybody I did. You should support them 100 percent.”
There are no plans to recognize Holtz before, during or after the game. He’s been asked to address the students after the game, and he said he would do that.
Holtz has asked his players to make an extra effort Saturday, but not for him. This will be the final game in Notre Dame Stadium before a 21,915-seat expansion is completed.
“That was started by Knute Rockne in 1930,” he said. “There have been a lot of great athletes, a lot of good games there. We have an obligation to go into this game and play it to the very best of our ability.
“What made Notre Dame great was here long before Lou Holtz came and it will be great long after. It’s been a wonderful 11 years.”
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