Lou Holtz likes Brian Kelly’s approach at Notre Dame

South Bend Tribune

Lou Holtz lamented Thursday that shooting his age (77) in golf was no longer a realistic goal, and that shooting his weight (150, maybe?) might have to suffice.

And with 40ish-degree temperatures, a persistent drizzle and a mandate of no golf carts on the Olympia Fields Country Club course, Holtz opted to talk football over attempting to golf.

“I don’t run if I can walk,” the former ND football coaching icon said. “I don’t walk if I can stand. I don’t stand if I can sit. I don’t sit if I can lie down.”

And he doesn’t give current Irish coach Brian Kelly unsolicited advice.

But Holtz, in the Chicago area for a joint fund-raiser with Kelly and legendary former ND coach Ara Parseghian, does smile big when Kelly heads down a road that the soon-to-be-retired ESPN college football analyst once did himself.

In theory, at least, Kelly will become more involved with the offense in 2014 than he’s been in his previous four seasons at Notre Dame, if not his head coaching career.

“I’m going to spend my time where the difficulties are,” Holtz said of his own coaching philosophy.

And offense has been difficult at Notre Dame for Kelly. The high point in scoring offense was a No. 49 national ranking in 2011. The peak in team passing efficiency has been 56th, in red-zone offense 49th. The one shining exception offensively has been pass protection, particularly last season when the injury-diluted group still finished second in the FBS in sacks allowed.

As Holtz pointed out, he was never a CEO head-coaching type, nor was Parseghian (1964-74). Kelly tried to be more CEO-esque the past couple of seasons but is going back to calling offensive plays this fall while spending most of his meeting and practice time with the quarterbacks.

“I wanted to run the offense, because of this: I could control the game by running the offense,” Holtz said. “You have to call your plays according to how well your defense is doing. You don’t worry about stats. You worry about wins.

“If you have an offensive coordinator — ‘Well, where are we ranked. ... Ah, man, how’s this going to look on my résumé?’ No, I enjoyed it. If I went back to coaching, I’d run the damn offense, I’ll tell you right now.

“It’s something I believe — you can control the game (by being your own) offensive coordinator, and you can’t in any other way. That’s just me.”

And apparently in 2014, that will be Brian Kelly.

Playoff misgivings

Holtz likes the new four-team college football playoff better than the BCS, but that’s about it.

He’d rather see the four teams picked after all the bowl games have been played rather than before, as it’s now designed.

“I just think if you would have said, ‘OK we’re going to have all the bowls end Jan. 1, and then we’ll take the top four (from that),’ all the sudden, every bowl becomes very important as to who might be one of the final four,” he said.

Hypothetically speaking

Holtz was asked about his thoughts on the first openly gay football player to be drafted into the NFL, Michael Sam, and how he would have handled it if he were coaching the former Missouri star.

“What I told the football team is that whatever happens off this football field is not going to be something I’m going to be concerned with, but the minute that comes on our football field, then I’m going to address it.

“Somebody might have a girlfriend problem, but until it comes on our football team, it doesn’t really affect me. I’m not going to be involved in your personal life. Now, if his situation became a talking point on the football team, then I would have to address it. And everybody’s got to respect the opinions and rights of other people. But until then, I could care less.

“All I’m interested in is that you graduate and win — that’s my mandate. I don’t know whether I had gay players or not. It wouldn’t bother me. I wouldn’t question it as long as you hit somebody.”

A dose of perspective

Holtz spent eight days in Afghanistan last summer, visiting the U.S. troops, and wishes he could have brought some spoiled student-athletes along with him.

“I see 19-year-olds (in Afghanistan) making life-and-death decisions,” Holtz said. “And then I come back, and I’ve got some 20-year-old who won’t go to English class. Holy hell.”

Another dose of perspective

Former Notre Dame All-America running back Jerome Bettis hears plenty of complaints about the impending FieldTurf at Notre Dame Stadium and expansion/renovation that will also likely include video boards

But he sees the changes as progress, not erosion of tradition.

“It’s inevitable,” he said. “We want things to stay the same, but, unfortunately, the dynamics of college athletics has changed. And so we’ve got to kind of level the playing field. Right now we’re behind the curve.

“Usually, your tradition is a benefit. But in our particular situation, it’s a crutch, because the kids who are coming out of high school now haven’t seen Notre Dame in its truest luster and in its moment.

“It hadn’t been relevant in so many years, that these kids weren’t born the last time Notre Dame was vying for a national championship outside of the last couple of years. So you have to do something to change the mind-set of the 17-year-old kid who wants to go to one of these SEC schools or wants to go to a Pac-12 school or something like that.

“Obviously, it’s going to rub some people the wrong way, but I think it’s necessary. If they love the university, like we all do, they should understand that it’s time to grow and build. I think this is the right thing to do.”

Transfer talk

The NCAA this week released transfer statistics for Division I sports from the 2012-13 school year, and football was well down the list in terms of how often it actually happens.

The top five men’s sports in transfers from a four-year school to another four-year school were tennis (14.6 percent), basketball (13.3), soccer (12.3), skiing (10.9) and golf (8.8).

Football checked in at 3.7 percent, below such sports as rifle and ahead of only gymnastics (2.8), fencing (2.4), baseball (2.1) and water polo (1.6).

The top women’s sports for transfers was also tennis (11.3), followed by skiing (10.2). Fencers were the least likely to transfer (2.1 percent).

Cat scratch fever

If Rice coach David Bailiff is as creative with his play-calling as he apparently is in recruiting, Brian Kelly might be in trouble on Aug. 30, when the two teams open the season at ND Stadium.

And maybe not.

In any event, the Owls did land three-star quarterback prospect J.T. Granato shortly after sending a letter to the Houston-based signal-caller’s cat, White Sox.

No kidding.

Included in the plea to the pet was the line “Paw me in case you have any questions.” Granato’s father, John, told Houston TV station KRIV.

The younger Granato was extremely impressed, but apparently the cat itself wasn’t. “She didn’t care,” he told ESPN. “She doesn’t care about anything.”

Twitter: @hansenNDInsider

Brian Kelly and Lou Holtz pose for photos with golf foursomes during the Irish Legends golf outing at Lost Dunes Country Club in Bridgman. (Photo courtesy/JOE RAYMOND)