Notre Dame to dedicate statue to Holtz, '88 title team on Saturday

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Winning isn't what Lou Holtz remembers best about coaching Notre Dame to its last national championship 20 years ago.

"It's the memories of preparing for the games," Holtz said.

Holtz will get to relive some of those memories Saturday with about 70 members from that national championship team during a reunion where he will be honored with the dedication of a statue. It depicts him calling a play on the sidelines with two players beside him.

"I think it's as high an honor as I could ever receive," Holtz said. "But it's a tribute to the players, the administration, the athletic directors. One person doesn't do that. That takes so many people. I'm humbled by it."

Holtz, elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in May, coached the Irish for 11 seasons, guiding them to a record of 100-30-2. After going 8-4 in his second season as coach in 1987, Holtz didn't expect the '88 team to win a national championship.

"The one thing I did feel, though, was we were going to put a group of people onto that field who genuinely cared about each other and about Notre Dame and understood the obligation you have when you play at Notre Dame," he said.

The team went 12-0, opening the season with a 19-17 victory over No. 9 Michigan, edging top-ranked Miami 31-30, beating No. 2 USC 27-10, then clinching the title with a 34-21 win over No. 3 West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl.

"You've got to be lucky to win a national championship. You're going to have to win a win in the last second of play and we did that against Miami," said Holtz, who works as a studio analyst for ESPN.

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said he plans to have Holtz speak to his team this week as the Irish (1-0) prepare to face Michigan (1-1) on Saturday.

"If you don't involve Lou, you'd be dumb," he said.

Weis said he seeks advice regularly from Holtz and Ara Parseghian, who led the Irish to national championships in 1966 and 1973.

"I can't tell you how many times I talked to Ara and Lou about different subjects and get their opinion on how would you do this and what were you thoughts on that," Weis said.

The statue was sculpted by Notre Dame graduate Jerry McKenna, who also created the Frank Leahy and Moose Krause statues east of Notre Dame Stadium, the Knute Rockne sculpture outside the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown South Bend and the statue of Parseghian located inside Gate D of the stadium, designated the national championship coaches gate. That's also where the statue of Holtz will be placed.

Holtz said he can't believe he's joining such legendary Notre Dame figures.

"There have been coaches that have done much better at Notre Dame but there's never been anyone who loved coaching there more than I did or believed in Notre Dame more than I did," he said.