Under the leadership of Coach Lou Holtz, the University of South Carolina football program has achieved a level of success and respect that the school had never before attained prior to his hiring. The Gamecocks have developed into a team to be reckoned with and the program has garnered national attention like never before. During Coach Holtz's five-year tenure, USC has accomplished several firsts in the program's 110-year history, including:
Winning two consecutive New Year's Day Bowl games (2001, 2002 Outback Bowls)
As he begins his sixth season at Carolina and his 33rd season overall as a head coach, Lou Holtz continues to reinforce the fact that he is one of the game's all-time greatest coaches and is unquestionably the premier program builder in the history of the sport. Coach Holtz enters the 2004 season with 243 career victories and counting, a total that ranks third among active NCAA Division 1-A coaches and is eighth best all-time.
Coach Holtz and his staff will be looking to get USC back into the national rankings and postseason picture in 2004. Carolina has opened the past two campaigns in strong fashion, needing just one more victory each time to become bowl eligible, but has been unable to close the deal, finishing each season with a 5-7 record. USC squared off against seven teams in 2002 that played in bowl games and was challenged by a difficult schedule again in 2003, meeting eight postseason bowl teams a year ago.
Heading into the 2002 season, the Gamecocks were coming off the most successful two-year run in the program's history. Over the 2000 and 2001 seasons, USC won 17 games, going 8-4 and 9-3. Those two seasons were each highlighted by back-to-back Outback Bowl victories, as Carolina defeated Ohio State 24-7 and 31-28, with the Gamecocks being the last team to defeat the 2003 Buckeye National Champions. USC finished 13th in both national polls following the 2001 campaign, the school's best national finish since 1984. For the first time ever, Carolina was ranked in the top 25 the entire season, and dating back to its final ranking of No. 19 at the end of the 2000 campaign through the first two weeks of the 2002 season, the Gamecocks were ranked in 21 consecutive national polls, which is likewise an all-time best for the program. The Gamecocks were once again in contention for the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division title heading into their final conference game of the 2001 season, the second straight year that has occurred.
During Lou Holtz's tenure at USC, the Gamecocks have emerged as one of the most talked about college football programs in the country. People across the nation have taken notice that something special is happening in Columbia, and that the Gamecocks have risen to become a team to be reckoned with in the always tough SEC. From a winless record in 1999 to consecutive Outback Bowl victories and two straight years of top 20 status, Coach Holtz has elevated Gamecock football to a level unprecedented in the 110 years the school has fielded a varsity team.
The man who has taken four different programs to top 20 finishes, won a national championship and national coach of the year honors, and guided teams to 23 postseason bowl games, may have done one of his best coaching jobs in 2000. As a result, Coach Holtz was named 2000 SEC Coach of the Year, AFCA Region 2 Coach of the Year, and received National Coach of the Year honors from Football News and American Football Coach Quarterly.
The Gamecocks entered the new millennium riding a 21-game losing streak -- the nation's longest -- and had been mired in mediocrity for the majority of the past decade. The transformation that occurred was well-chronicled and could very well have been the biggest story in college football that season. Carolina earned its way to play Florida in a winner take-all game for the SEC Eastern Division title, while posting a winning record in the SEC for the first time since the program began competing in the league in 1992. A group of individuals grew into a team and displayed a remarkable poise and togetherness that is critical in performing at a championship level. That performance was duplicated in 2001, as the Gamecocks posted a 5-3 conference record for the second year in a row and for the first time in school history, defeated nationally ranked teams on the road in consecutive games.
Coach Holtz has become the only coach in NCAA history to ever lead six different programs to bowl games and likewise has become the only coach to ever guide four different programs to final top 20 rankings. Along the way, Gamecock fans have become even more well-known for their loyal support. Attendance records have been shattered the past three seasons. A record 57,000 season tickets were sold for 2002 and tickets were a hot commodity. The Gamecocks averaged a school-best 82,614 in 2001, with a stadium record crowd of 85,000 attending the win over Clemson. That average ranked 10th nationally in 2001. In 2002, the Gamecocks averaged 82,138 to rank 11th in the NCAA. Over 60,000 Carolina fans traveled to Tampa in 2000 and 2001 for the Outback Bowl victories over Ohio State.
The enthusiasm surrounding Coach Holtz's turnaround of the program has spread like wildfire across the state and beyond and the Gamecock support base has never been more firm.
The national media attention that has reported on Coach Holtz and the Gamecock team has given the program coast to coast coverage like never before. National television networks, including CBS Sports, ESPN, ABC Sports, CNN/SI, and Fox Sports, have all visited the USC campus to tell the story about the national championship coach who is working towards developing a consistent winner in Columbia.
Coach Holtz has been a builder of programs throughout his illustrious 32 years as a collegiate head coach. First at William & Mary ... then at North Carolina State ... then at Arkansas ... then at Minnesota ... then at Notre Dame ... and now at South Carolina. At all six universities, Holtz has led those programs to a postseason bowl game by his second season at the helm and regularly has produced winning teams that also record superlative graduation rates.
Coach Holtz was named head coach at USC Dec. 4, 1998, at a press conference attended by an overflow media contingent and more than 4,000 Gamecock fans at Williams-Brice Stadium. While the 1999 campaign may have been short on victories, the groundwork was laid as Coach Holtz and his staff instilled a new found attitude into the Gamecock squad. The team learned how to fight through the tough times and discovered the sacrifices that must be made in order to achieve success. The manner in which Coach Holtz handled his own personal adversity in 1999, with his wife's illness and the loss of his mother, was further evidence of the strong values and rock solid foundation that the Coach's philosophy of life and coaching principles are built upon.
Coach Holtz enters the 2004 season as the third winningest active coach and ranks eighth all-time with 243 victories, while his 12 bowl game victories rank fifth on the all-time list. Prior to coming to Carolina, Holtz served as a college football analyst for CBS Sports for two years. Most recently, he was the ultra-successful head coach at Notre Dame for 11 seasons from 1986-96, where he rekindled the football fortunes of one of the country's most prestigious programs, claiming a national championship in 1988 and leading the Fighting Irish to nine consecutive New Year's Day Bowl games.
Holtz quickly proved that he could take Notre Dame back to the top of the college football world and keep the program there on a consistent basis. In just his third season at Notre Dame, Holtz led the Fighting Irish to the 1988 national championship with a perfect 12-0 record, a season in which he earned National Coach of the Year honors. Facing what was rated by the NCAA as the nation's most difficult schedule three times during his tenure with the Irish and the toughest over a five-year period from 1986-90, Holtz's record was a sparkling 100-30-2 at Notre Dame, including an 87-20-2 mark over his last nine seasons at the school. Holtz coached the Irish to finishes of sixth or better in the final Associated Press poll in five seasons and his five postseason bowl victories at Notre Dame are more than any other Irish coach. Additionally during his tenure at Notre Dame, Holtz compiled a 33-20-2 mark against AP top 25 teams and a 21-15-1 record vs. AP top 10 squads. Holtz led Notre Dame into 22 different games with the number one ranking in the current AP poll and three times his Irish teams knocked off the nation's number one ranked team. His teams reeled off 23 consecutive victories through the 1988 and `89 seasons to establish the longest winning streak in Notre Dame history. Holtz tutored a long list of All-Americas at Notre Dame, including Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown and Lombardi Award winners Chris Zorich and Aaron Taylor. While he was at Notre Dame, Holtz had 12 players selected in the first round of the NFL draft, including seven combined in the 1993 and `94 drafts.
Holtz has been the only coach to win a national championship in the same year both on the field in 1988 as well as in the classroom, as evidenced by the 100 percent graduation rate of Notre Dame football players in winning the 1988 CFA Academic Award. Three times during his stay at South Bend, his Fighting Irish squads achieved the highest graduation rates in the country.
Holtz came to Notre Dame after rebuilding programs at Minnesota (1984-85), Arkansas (1977-83), North Carolina State (1972-75) and William & Mary (1969-71). He spent the 1976 season as head coach of the NFL's New York Jets. Twenty-three of his 31 collegiate teams have earned post-season bowl bids and 18 have finished in the final AP top 25 and eight in the top 10. His teams at North Carolina State and Arkansas appeared in 10 consecutive bowl games, compiling a 5-3-2 mark, and finished in the top 20 on eight different occasions. In his two seasons as head coach at Minnesota, Holtz resuscitated a program that had combined for a 4-18 record in the two previous seasons before he arrived. He took over a Minnesota team that had lost 17 straight Big Ten Conference games and breathed new life into it. In 1984, he took over a 1-10 team that gave up 518 points the previous year and produced a respectable 4-7 record. In 1985, Holtz took his rebuilding process a step further, by coaching Minnesota to a 5-1 start, the only loss being a 13-7 decision to eventual national champion Oklahoma. The Golden Gophers were ranked in the top 20 at midseason and eventually finished 6-5, marking the program's first winning season since 1981. Minnesota went on to defeat Clemson in the Independence Bowl, played after Holtz had departed to take the Notre Dame job.
Holtz's sterling seven-season mark of 60-21-2 (.735) at Arkansas included six straight bowl appearances after he arrived, the first time the Razorbacks had ever played in bowl games in more than four straight seasons. His first six Arkansas teams combined to average exactly nine victories per year. Four of his Razorback teams finished in the final top 10 poll, while five finished in the top 20.
Holtz quickly made a name for himself at Arkansas by taking his first Razorback team in 1977 to an 11-1 record, highlighted by a stunning 31-6 upset of second-ranked and once-beaten Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. That victory left Arkansas third in both of the final polls and came despite the fact Holtz had suspended, before the squad traveled to Miami, three players who had combined to score 78 percent of Arkansas' touchdowns in 1977. That season, Holtz was named National Coach of the Year by the Football Writers Association of America and the Walter Camp Foundation. Holtz's 1979 Arkansas team was co-champions of the Southwest Conference and his 1980 and 1982 squads claimed bowl victories. During his seven seasons at Arkansas, his teams played before sellout crowds at every home game.
At North Carolina State, Holtz produced the best four-year won-loss record (33-12-3) in the history of the school. All four of his Wolfpack teams earned postseason bowl berths, giving him a string of 10 straight bowl games, including the six at Arkansas. He took over a NCSU program that had won only three games in each of the previous three seasons before he arrived and he reversed that trend by coaching the Wolfpack to an 8-3-1 record in 1972. NC State won the Peach Bowl that year, finished ranked in the top 20 and Holtz was selected the Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year.
His 1973 NC State team won the ACC championship with a perfect 6-0 record, won the Liberty Bowl and once again was ranked in the top 20. Holtz's 1974 club won its first six games, defeated Penn State and finished in the top 10, while his 1975 team upset eighth-ranked Penn State on the road. NC State's ninth-place finish in the final national poll in 1974 marks the only time in the school's history its football team has finished in a wire-service top 10.
Holtz's head coaching career began in 1969 at William & Mary at the age of 32. His second team in 1970 won the Southern Conference title and advanced to play in the Tangerine Bowl in the only postseason appearance in the history of the school. Before becoming head coach at William & Mary, Holtz served as an assistant coach at Iowa (1960), William & Mary (1961-63), Connecticut (1964-65), South Carolina (1966-67), and Ohio State (1968). The Buckeyes won the national championship in 1968 in Holtz's one season on Woody Hayes' staff. Born Louis Leo Holtz on Jan. 6, 1937 in Follansbee, WV, Holtz grew up in nearby East Liverpool, Ohio. He graduated from East Liverpool High School, earned a bachelor's degree in history from Kent State in 1959 and a master's degree from Iowa in arts and education in 1961. He played linebacker at Kent State for two seasons before an injury ended his career.
Holtz has authored two best-selling books: "The Fighting Spirit," that chronicles Notre Dame's 1988 championship season, and "Winning Every Day," that focuses on 10 strategies that can assist an individual in achieving success in his or her professional and personal life. A world-renown speaker and student of motivation, Holtz has championed countless charitable and educational causes. Coach Holtz was named the 1998 Man of the Year by the Walter Camp Football Foundation for his exemplary service to the game of football and to his fellow man. Additionally, Coach Holtz has spear-headed a statewide anti-litter campaign that has proven to be extremely successful and under his direction, the entire Gamecock squad spent one Sunday afternoon in April of 1999 canvassing a three-mile stretch of highway adjacent to Williams-Brice Stadium to pick up litter.
Last December, the city of Columbia renamed its winter homeless shelter The Lou and Beth Holtz Homeless Shelter, as the Holtzes have been the largest contributors to that facility which services more than 200 individuals each night during the winter months.
In March of 2001, Coach Holtz was presented the first annual Living and Giving Award by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The Lou Holtz/Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame in East Liverpool, Ohio is the home to much of the coach's memorabilia, but more importantly, it serves as the driving force behind raising scholarship funds for Upper Ohio Valley area residents to attend trade school. Coach Holtz also sponsors a golf tournament each summer in South Carolina which raises funds for several different charitable causes. In August, he joined forces with Chick-fil-A to sponsor a 5K run which raised money for charity. In 2001, he and his wife, Beth, initiated a $25,000 endowment for USC's Thomas Cooper Library.
In May of 2001, Coach Holtz participated in a six-day tour of Southwest Asia, sponsored by the United States Service Organization (USO), which saw him speak to and entertain U.S. troops stationed in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. As only Coach Holtz can do, he combined his philosophy of success message with an introspective look on life spiced with some humor and a few of his magic tricks. The response from the U.S. Military was overwhelming and Lt. General Charles F. Wald, Commander, United States Central Command Air Forces and Ninth Air Force, who led the tour, had this to say about the Gamecocks' head coach: ... "Coach Holtz is a fascinating man, a fantastic football coach, and a great friend of the military. I wish everyone could have seen the looks on our troops' faces as he spoke about Trust, Commitment, and Caring. Through the tight schedule and 130-degree temperatures, Coach Holtz never lost his energy and never turned down an autograph seeker, even when the lines lasted for more than three hours. He is truly remarkable. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thrill for our troops."
Married to Beth Barcus of East Liverpool on July 22, 1961, Holtz and his wife are the parents of four children -- Luanne Altenbaumer, Skip (Gamecock assistant head coach and offensive coordinator), Kevin, and Elizabeth Messaglia. Coach Holtz and Beth celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in July, 2001.