June 10, 2023

Lou Holtz: Notre Dame Football Coach to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Former college football coach Lou Holtz sits beside White House ecomonic advisor Larry Kudlow as President Donald Trump announces that he intends to honor Holtz with a presidential medal of freedom during a news conference at the White House in Washington, D.C., September 4, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Two weeks ago, former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz delivered a short speech at the Republican National Convention, explaining why he has chosen to endorse President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.

“There’s a statue of me at Notre Dame,” Holtz said. “I guess they needed a place for the pigeons to land. But if you look closely, you will see these three words there: trust, commitment, and love.” He went on to explain that this motto is why he is supporting Trump, and he criticized the Biden-Harris ticket for being “the most radically pro-abortion campaign in history.”

After Holtz gave these remarks, Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins issued a statement essentially disavowing the former coach. “While Coach Lou Holtz is a former coach at Notre Dame, his use of the University’s name at the Republican National Convention must not be taken to imply that the University endorses his views, any candidate or any political party,” Fr. Jenkins wrote, before suggesting that Holtz had been wrong to question how Biden could consider himself a faithful Catholic while backing legal abortion.

Perhaps partly in response to this denunciation of Holtz, Trump announced his plans last Friday to honor Holtz with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, calling him a long-time friend and incredible leader. “We’ve analyzed it very closely. . . . We’ve looked at Lou’s life and his career and what he’s done for charity, and the football is obvious,” Trump said. “He was a great coach but what he’s done beyond even coaching [sic], so Lou will be getting the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”

Overnight, Notre Dame changed its tune, issuing the following statement praising Holtz in glowing terms:

Lou Holtz is among America’s greatest college football coaches, leading Notre Dame to a national championship in 1988. But his contributions off the field have been equally inspiring, bringing attention and support to his hometown, alma mater, Catholic Charities, the Women’s Care Foundation, the Center for the Homeless in South Bend, and other worthy organizations through his charitable foundation. At Notre Dame, he and his late wife, Beth, served as research ambassadors, and the players he molded have added to his legacy through their own contributions through the Lou’s Lads Foundation. We presented Lou with an honorary degree in 2011 for his service on and off the field to Notre Dame and beyond, and we join now with his family and many friends in offering our sincere congratulations on this honor.

Notre Dame’s leadership should never be accused of failing to go along with the crowd.

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