No Joke, Holtz Is a Quick Thinker

Notre Dame receiver coach Pete Cordelli, who also assisted Lou Holtz at Arkansas, says, “I’ve never seen a person react on his feet like he does.”

Cordelli said that Holtz, before the Arkansas-Oklahoma game in the 1978 Orange Bowl, gave the greatest fight talk he had ever heard, but just as the Razorbacks started to charge onto the field, word came down that the Rose Bowl was running late and that NBC was holding up the Orange Bowl kickoff for 15 minutes.

Holtz had a problem. What could he do to avoid a letdown?

Cordelli: “He called the players together and said, ‘I’ll tell you what we’re going to do. I travel around and speak a lot, and I’m always looking for new material. You guys tell me jokes and I’ll use them in my speeches.’


“Dan Hampton looks at me like, ‘Is he serious?’ Finally, one guy told a joke, and then Coach told one and it got going and by the time the TV official came back, everyone was laughing. On the third play, we recovered a fumble and it was 14-0 in the first quarter.”

Arkansas, in a huge upset, won the game, 31-6.

Add Orange Bowl: The win by Arkansas was even more surprising since Holtz had dismissed three top offensive stars from the team for training violations.

As it turned out, the win helped Notre Dame win the 1977 national championship. Oklahoma had been rated No. 2. In the Cotton Bowl, No. 5 Notre Dame vaulted to the top by beating No. 1 Texas, 38-10.


Trivia Time: Name Notre Dame’s seven Heisman Trophy winners. (Answer below.)

For What It’s Worth: The four teams Notre Dame has beaten since the win over Miami all have losing records. They are Air Force (5-6), Navy (3-7), Rice (0-10) and Penn State (5-6).

Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer, on Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders: “He’s a phenomenal talent. He is quick and can make people miss him, and he can run over people in the open field. Oklahoma State didn’t block us and Sanders gained 215 yards. He can fly through a keyhole.”

Add Sanders: Dale Burkholder, who coached Sanders at Wichita (Kan.) North High School, told the New York Times he couldn’t sell the 5-8 running back to recruiters.

Burkholder: “Wichita State is only 200 yards from the Sanders’ home, and one of their assistants said, ‘We don’t need another midget.’ Kansas and Kansas State were not interested.

“The school that really blew it was Nebraska. I used their offense and sent film of Sanders and one of our linemen to Nebraska. They returned the film with a note to the lineman and didn’t even acknowledge Barry.”

Trivia Answer: Angelo Bertelli, Johnny Lujack, Leon Hart, Johnny Lattner, Paul Hornung, John Huarte, Tim Brown.



Notre Dame quarterback Tony Rice, on how Coach Lou Holtz sometimes confuses him with Holtz’s quarterback at Minnesota, Rickey Foggie: “He calls me Rickey this, Rickey that. So one day I called him Bo.”