Lou Holtz won a national title at Notre Dame, back-to-back Outback Bowls at South Carolina and an Orange Bowl at Arkansas. The College Football Hall of Fame coach made William & Mary, N.C. State and Minnesota bowl-worthy, too.
But Holtz was fired at Arkansas. Three programs - Minnesota, Notre Dame and South Carolina - were slapped with NCAA probation for violations committed on his watch.
Over his 77 years, Holtz has been more consistent as one of the top motivational speakers in the world. He packs a powerful message for the youth of America, and their parents.
"Today, everybody wants to talk about their rights and their privileges," Holtz said by phone. "Twenty-five years ago, people talked about their obligations and their responsibilities."
"Three rules," Holtz said. "Do the right thing, do your best and show people you care."
Expect "Dr. Lou" to touch on similar themes next Saturday night when he speaks at the Roper Xavier (Rx) Society Donor Appreciation Gala at the Charleston Place Hotel (see www.rsfhfoundation.org for more information).
And figure on some audience questions about South Carolina, where Holtz went 33-37.
Digitally re-mastered, the record built from 1999-2004 sounds better. Remember that the initial 0-11 rebuilding year followed a 1-10 season under Brad Scott.
But mostly, the Holtz legacy at South Carolina is enhanced by the Gamecocks' last three seasons, all top 10 finishes.
"We put the thing on a foundation, I felt, and we did a good job in that area," Holtz said. "But I also felt it was important to get an established winner in there that could take it to the next level. Steve Spurrier has done that. I'm not surprised by his success; he's won everywhere he's been. And I'm happy for the South Carolina fans."
The two Holtz bowl wins over Ohio State, once a double-slice of aberration, look more like a preview.
He helped woo Steve Spurrier, who previously helped Holtz's wife Beth get quick access to the University of Florida's Shands Cancer Center (83 radiation treatments later, she is doing well, Holtz said).
"I felt like South Carolina could have a great program, I really did," said Holtz, who lives in Orlando. "Even when we were 0-11 my first year there, the people were doing what it took to be competitive."
Sparky to Spurrier
It all fits into a simple trend.
South Carolina head coaches since the Gamecocks joined the SEC, and their bowl victory totals:
Sparky Woods - 0.
Brad Scott - 1.
Holtz - 2.
Spurrier - 4.
But there's success, and there's unprecedented Gamecock glory. Holtz has enough institutional knowledge to know the difference.
"I didn't know he (Spurrier) would have three top 10 finishes in a row, I didn't anticipate that," he admitted.
Great success sparks new expectations.
"The one thing about people is that no matter what you do, it's not good enough," Holtz said. "Do I think what South Carolina has done is sustainable? Yes. But you have to realize that you have to have a lot of things fall into place."
For instance, a ridiculously reliable quarterback.
That stays healthy.
Holtz on Connor Shaw
"Connor Shaw is the most underrated quarterback that's ever played the game of football," Holtz said of the senior who went 27-5 as a starter. "I've been a fan of his since he was a sophomore. I remember when he was a freshman, Steve Spurrier told me he had this incredible quarterback who was the son of a coach and a good passer and a good runner. I'm not sure South Carolina would have been a top 10 team this year if it were not for Connor Shaw."
The busy Holtz is identified as much by his voice as his face when he travels.
"I get recognized for everything possible," he said.
The list usually starts with Notre Dame but also includes the speaking engagements, his other college stops and ESPN analyst roles as the aforementioned Dr. Lou, or as <URL destination="">Mark May's "courtroom" nemesis.
</URL>"The epitome of it was a few days ago," Holtz said, talking about his latest haircut not far from ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn. "One of the most difficult things in life is finding a good barber. But I go to this place I'd never been before. And I'm an old man, I'm dressed shabby and I don't say anything. This girl kept looking at me, and kept looking at me. Then she said, 'Were you in 'Blindside'?"
Why, yes, he was.
Lou Holtz, as himself, appearing as a South Carolina Gamecocks head coach in search of a good left tackle.
Check out the re-run; that Holtz legacy looks better now than when the film came out in 2009.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff
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