Yes, yes, yes, Lou Holtz saw his South Carolina teams struggle — and sometimes drift aimlessly out of control — in the final two seasons before his retirement from coaching. His micro-managing and undercutting his assistants almost guaranteed that scenario.
But we are talking about a career, not just a couple of stumbles close to the finish line, and he without question belongs in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Consider the entire body of work: success at every stop on his college head-coaching journey, ranging from William and Mary to North Carolina State to Arkansas to Minnesota to Notre Dame to, yes, even South Carolina.
The finish, especially the 63-17 loss to Clemson in 2003 and the fight during another one-sided loss to the Tigers a year later in his final game, casts a pall on his achievements.
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Lest we forget, he guided the Gamecocks to a pair of bowl victories over Ohio State, accomplishments the Carolina faithful had only seen in their dreams.
Look over his entire career and the successes far outweigh the warts.
I mean, how many coaches have directed teams to 249 wins? Autocrat or not, his record stands on its merits.
He is the only coach to take six programs to bowl games, and he guided four — N.C. State, Arkansas, Notre Dame and South Carolina — to top-20 finishes in national polls.
He won conference championships at three schools and a national title at Notre Dame.
If he could rewrite history, he undoubtedly would have stepped aside after Carolina’s second Outback Bowl victory. He had accomplished his mission to breathe life into a moribund program.
Instead, he sought higher goals for his program, and what is wrong with aspiring for more?
Fans will recall the disappointment of those three seasons, the 16-19 record that included some forgettable losses. Human nature works that way; the most recent events are the ones foremost in the mind.
Still, if a bad finish to a career meant elimination from hall-of-fame consideration, the shrines would not be nearly so full.
Holtz does not belong among the college game’s great coaches and in the hall of fame? A ridiculous thought.