Profiles In Plagiar-Agism is an offseason series being run to examine the history of exit plans. We will be analyzing some of the greatest football coaches of all time and determining any parallels between their final days and those that are facing Joe Paterno.
Lou Holtz Coaching Years: 1969-1971 William & Mary, 1972-1975 North Carolina State, 1976 New York Jets, 1977-1983 Arkansas, 1984-1985 Minnesota, 1986-1996 Notre Dame, 1999-2004 South Carolina
Mythical National Championships: One, 12-0 1988 Irish
Conference Championships: 3 in 22 years of coaching teams in a conference (excludes, of course, all seasons with Notre Dame)
Backstory: Holtz had a bit of a strange rise in the coaching world, filled with very dramatic ups and downs. He built up the William & Mary program but then left for North Carolina State. He compiled a 31-11-2 record there, but only finished the season ranked once in four years. After that relatively bland record at a major college program, he was hired as HC by an apparently desperate New York Jets franchise. He didn't make it though his first season, pulling a Bobby Petrino* with one game left to play. Under his control, the team managed just 3 wins in 13 games. He then moved on to Arkansas with mild success but was eventually let go. This led to one short season at Minnesota, where he gained a rare bowl invitation but did not coach in it because he had accepted an offer from Notre Dame in December. At Notre Dame he faired quite well. After two mediocre season he went on to finish in the top six five times, including the 1988 Mythical National Championship. He left a couple years later, but no one seems to be quite sure why. Some mention a job in the NFL (that never happened), there were rumblings of non-specific 'ethical' motivations, and then there was this:
Maybe he exasperated his new bosses. Holtz is a famous pain. Even in the celebratory moments after his last game at South Bend, a 62-0 victory, Boo Hoo Lou whined about the TV network deal. He said it created "a backlash" that inspired teams to play superbly against Notre Dame and might have "cost us" a national championship or two. Maybe he told his bosses that if they didn't like the way he worked, it might be time to get a new man. And maybe they agreed.
Wow, those are some bad excuses. Anyway, Lou eventually ended up at South Carolina. He didn't win a game in his first year. In six seasons, he managed just two bowl appearances.
Burn Out or Fade Away? Ummm....
Current Legacy: This is billed as a series about how the greats quit and that might mean Lou doesn't really belong. But hey, the guy looks the part of an old man, like our own coach, so he gets an invitation. While he is easy to discredit, he coached at Notre Dame and did well there (back when Notre Dame actually played a decent schedule none the less). The school had been playing .500 ball for half a decade until Lou showed up and make them a consistent top ten team.
Lou isn't well respected anymore. The USC thing was him walking away with his tail between his legs. He is paraded like a clown on ESPN. Despite bringing their program back to life, Notre Dame fans tend to bring up the tried and tested rag for 'losing the big games' even though he won an MNC there. They haven't even been close since.
So what did we learn? Well, to start, and especially with Paterno, it is impossible to know exactly how a program is run and what kind of internal respect the HC is generating. After last summer's fight, the Hub Brawl, Quarless' repeated alcohol offenses, and the knife thing with Bell, it's hard to say how much of the old disciplinarian is showing up to practice anymore. Although the video evidence doesn't seem to suggest any lack of energy.
So here comes the conclusion: sometimes you just get too old to coach. I know that sounds moronically obvious, but I think the simple concept gets lost in our over analysis. Is Joe too old? I honestly don't know. I really don't. Maybe all these off the field incidents mean he isn't respected in the club house. Maybe he is respected in the club house but they are choosing to recruit character issue players. Maybe it's just bad luck; even coaches that most agree are in control (guys like Stoops and Tressel) aren't above these things happening to their teams. It's just the reality of the sport now. I do know that Lou was too old. It's clear from the video of the above shown brawl. I also know that it's not going to be the same age for everyone, and so that makes the question one that you can't really answer until it's too late.
* The quitting part, anyway. Based on what I can gather, he didn't receive the Arkansas job until after he had officially resigned.