Wednesday, September 6, 2006

It seemed like old times. Former University of Arkansas football coach Lou Holtz was back in the state ripping off one liners and leading hog calls. The little man from Ohio who took the state by storm way back in 1977 appeared in Blytheville Monday night at the Holiday Inn in support of his autobiography Wins, Losses, and Lessons.

Holtz cracked jokes, reminisced about his childhood days in Ohio, and talked fondly of his days in Arkansas. "I love the state of Arkansas," Holtz said. "It is a beautiful state with beautiful people. I have nothing but good things to say about the state of Arkansas. Three of my children graduated from Fayetteville High School and my granddaughter is currently a freshman at the University of Arkansas."

Holtz burst on the scene in 1977, leading his first Razorback team to an 11-1 record, highlighted by a stunning 31-6 upset of second ranked Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. "I went to Coach Broyles (Frank) and asked him if we beat Oklahoma by 30 points did he think we would win the national championship. I had noticed some tendencies that we could exploit and I truly believed we would win that football game," stated Holtz. Holtz was right on the money and the state fell in love with him.

What made the victory even more improbable was that Holtz suspended three of his top players, who had combined to score 78 percent of Arkansas' touchdowns that year, prior to the game for violating the team's "do-right" rule. Despite the distractions, Holtz' Razorbacks pulled off arguably the biggest upset in bowl history.

Holtz went on to post a 60-21-2 record at Arkansas, including six straight bowl appearances. Four of his Razorback teams finished in the final top 10 poll while a fifth team finished in the top 20.

Holtz was fired after a 6-5 season in 1983 by athletic director Frank Broyles. "I had just come home from church and Frank Broyles called me wanting me to come by the office," explained Holtz. Holtz said he was told by Broyles to resign. "I told him I didn't want to do that," said Holtz. According to Holtz, Broyles then said, "Well, we will fire you then." Holtz admitted he was very angry and wanted to be bitter but his wife, Beth, would not allow it. Later on, when Holtz was offered the Notre Dame job, Broyles gave his former coach a glowing recommendation.

"Coach Broyles told me he had made a mistake," said Holtz. "He admitted he listened to the wrong people. When Notre Dame called him, Broyles told them not to look any further "that he had made a mistake in letting me go," added Holtz. Holtz said Broyles had asked him to return to Arkansas on two occasions since his dismissal.

"I don't know of any one individual that has made a greater contribution to the state of Arkansas than Frank Broyles," said Holtz.

In talking about his new book, Holtz told the audience he really didn't want to write an autobiography. "People don't want to hear about your problems. Ninety percent don't care about your problems and the other 10 percent are glad you have them," joked Holtz.

Holtz said people need something they are passionate about in life and need to have hopes, dreams, and something to believe in. Holtz said he hoped his book would be a benefit to others by sharing some of the lessons he has learned throughout his life.

Holtz closed the evening with a question and answer session and was asked if he would like to coach again. "You never say never. I still have a lot of energy," added Holtz, who apologized for not bringing his bag of magic tricks. On this night he didn't need them.

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