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Life Lessons From Coach's Playbook
Notre Dame legend Lou Holtz made his son a believer-at home

By Tom Zenner

For a guy who never thought he'd amount to much because of his diminutive stature, a heavy lisp,, and an upbringing in a town called East Liverpool, Ohio that was so remote it made Mayberry, USA seem like the cultural capital of the universe, Lou Holtz has done pretty well for himself. In 28 years of coaching at the collegiate level, Lou is number 11 all time in wins. He makes more money giving corporate pep talks on the A-list lecture circuit than the President of the United States pulls down in 2 years. He's won a national championship at Notre Dame, is a best selling author, and an accomplished broadcaster with CBS. Yet, if you ask Lou Holtz what he's most proud of right now, he will probably tell you it's the fact that his son Skip is with him on the Gamecocks coaching staff, his wife seems to have defeated cancer, and half his grandchildren live within a few football fields of his home in Columbia, South Carolina.

As they might say in the south, this fella's a hell of a football coach, but dadgummit, he's a darn good dad too. And one who's proud to have son Skip as his offensive coordinator.

"I sent Skip to Notre Dame so he would become a CEO, not a football coach. When he decided he wanted to get into coaching, I put together a list of 6-8 programs where I thought he would get the best training to become successful. Tom Osborne, Joe Paterno, Terry Donahue and others all responded favorably to the letters he wrote, but Bobby Bowden said if you can be here in two days, I've got a job for you at Florida State."

Skip took that route, learning under Bowden with the Seminoles and eventually becoming Lou's offensive coordinator at Notre Dame when the Irish racked up a 21-2-1 record in the early 90's. From there it was off to the University of Connecticut, where he led the Huskies into the Division One-AA playoffs on a regular basis. His stock as one of the hot young coaching prospects was rising faster than the line of disgruntled customers at the United Airlines ticket counter at O'Hare. But just over a year ago, he decided that some things are more important than having a bucket of Gatorade dumped on your head on New Years Day. It was a lesson distilled in him years ago as his father rose up the coaching ladder. Even though Lou Holtz couldn't be with his four kids as much as he wanted while he was putting together his hall of fame resume, he realized an important lesson on what it takes to be successful as a father.

"The quality of father you are is not determined by the quantity of time you spend with your kids," says Lou, "but the quality of the time. I was always there when they needed me. I would make a point to at least start the day by having breakfast with the kids or pick them up from school or take them to or from practices when possible. My wife was a tremendous mother and did a great job of explaining to them that dad couldn't always be there because he was working, but his hard work is allowing us to live in this nice house and have this type of life."

Lou will leave an undeniable legacy on the game as a coach. But the one he leaves as a father is more impressive than 216 wins. His son Skip gave up his pursuit of personal glory as a head coach to be with his father, so he and his own three kids could spend more time with Beth Holtz, Lou's wife and Skip's mother who was suffering from Stage Four cancer.

"There is no doubt in my mind that Skip's decision to move here, and have his family near Beth helped her tremendously. She is doing marvelous and her recovery from cancer has been truly remarkable."

It doesn't matter what South Carolina's record is in their own stadium, Lou Holtz has already built a truly impressive record at home.

Tom Zenner is a television sportscaster for Fox and a free-lance writer in Boston. He has a two-and-a-half year old daughter named Brooke.

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