Home Diocesan News God answers prayers but not in the way we want, Lou Holtz tells men’s rally
God answers prayers but not in the way we want, Lou Holtz tells men’s rally Print E-mail
Written by Pete Sheehan   
Friday, 05 May 2017 13:19

YOUNGSTOWN – Both in football and in life, Lou Holtz told a faith rally for men here April 29, God has always answered his prayers – though not in the way he wanted.



“I wanted to be a good athlete but I never became one,” Holtz, a College Football Hall of Fame coach, said at the annual “Men’s Rally in the Valley” at the Covelli Center here.

God however “put me into coaching,” where he led six different college teams to post-season bowl games, said Holtz, who grew up in East Liverpool and graduated from Kent State University. At Notre Dame, he coached from 1986 to 1996 and is among their winningest coaches.

Holtz, now a commentator for ESPN and a motivational speaker, was the opening speaker for the eighth annual inspirational men’s rally, which boasted more than 3,000 participants.

“It was awesome. What gets me excited is to see men excited in their faith,” said Bing Newton the director of the rally. The event “originated by men of faith of about 60 different denominations. We meet once a month and put our denominations aside and focus on Christ,” Newton said. The day included other speakers and musicians.

In addressing the men present, Holtz cited his personal experiences. After graduating from college and serving in the U.S. Army, he returned home and decided he wanted to find work in coaching and marry his girlfriend, Beth Barcus.

His first choice was a teaching and coaching job at Conneaut High School but Beth refused his proposal and broke off the relationship.

Heart-broken, “I wanted to get as far away as possible,” so he took a graduate assistant coaching job at the University of Iowa.

Yet, Beth later decided that she wanted to marry him and joined him in Iowa. That coaching position propelled him into a succession of assistant coaching jobs at major college programs.

“Because she broke up with me,” Holtz said, he embarked on a college coaching career that would eventually lead to head coaching positions at William and Mary, North Carolina State, Arkansas, and even Notre Dame.

At Arkansas, during his first season in 1977, his team advanced to the Orange Bowl to face undefeated Oklahoma, a contender for the national title.

Yet Holtz found controversy when a few days before the bowl game he suspended three star players for undisclosed but “serious” disciplinary violations.

Facing such a formidable foe at less than full strength, Holtz said, he prayed about what to do and met with the team. After discussing the reasons why they couldn’t win, Holtz asked for reasons why they could.

“We have the best defense in the country,” one player said. Others cited their outstanding quarterback, Ron Calcagni of Youngstown, their offensive line, and other strengths.

“I was waiting for them to say, ‘We have a great coach,’” Holtz quipped.

Arkansas ended up upsetting Oklahoma. “I became a local hero,” Holtz said. He was approached by General Motors and IBM to speak to employees. This launched a career as a motivational speaker for a man who earlier had “taken one speech course, Speech 101, at Kent State and … got a ‘C.’”

After a successful tenure at Arkansas, Holtz went onto success at Minnesota, and then to Notre Dame, where he coached for 11 seasons, compiling a 100-30-2 record, with the 1988 team winning a national championship. A statue to Holtz was erected at Notre Dame.

“I prayed the rosary every day,” Holtz said, citing faith and prayer – as well principles for good decision making – for his success.

Holtz told those gathered that he believed there were men in attendance who were not certain of their faith and were looking for support or affirmation.

Most people start out with the faith that their parents taught them, Holtz said, but “when we grow up and go away we have to make the choice ourselves…. Of the 422,000 words in the English language, the greatest is ‘choice.’”

When making his own choice about God, Holtz said, he found it clear.

“You can see because there are 50,000 receptors in your eyes,” Holtz said, noting the complexity of other organs of the human body as well. “Nobody can build a machine like that.”

He also pointed out that 11 of Jesus’ Apostles “died a martyr’s death,” and he cited the multitudes of other martyrs during Christianity’s 2,000 years. He stressed that people don’t die for something that they are not convinced is true.

“You can choose whether to believe or doubt,” Holtz said, “to help or to hurt.”

Holtz also offered “three simple rules for making good decisions. First of all, do what is right. Be honest. Be loyal” and avoid racism, sexism, “and spousal abuse.”

“Secondly, do everything to the best of your ability” and according to the right priorities. Holtz said his priorities have always been “faith, family, and football,” in that order. He would tell players that their priorities should be “faith, family, education, football, and social life.”

“Thirdly, genuinely show people you care,” Holtz said. He noted how his family rallied behind his wife when she was diagnosed with cancer.

In a rare interview, he recalled, Beth Holtz said: “’I never knew how much my family loved me until I got cancer.’ We didn’t love her more, we just showed it more.”


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