5 Things You Didn't Know About Lou Holtz

Now that he's giving occasionally surreal pep talks and diagnoses to NCAA football teams as part of ESPN's college pigskin studio crew, it's easy to forget that Lou Holtz was one of the preeminent coaches in the college game until fairly recently. Let's look at five things you might not know about Coach Lou:

1. A Young Bill Clinton Had His Back

Throughout his coaching career, Holtz insisted that his players perform well on the field and behave off of it. Sounds like a pretty sound policy, but it didn't always make him popular with players or win-at-all-costs boosters. In 1977, Holtz's first season at Arkansas, he found himself in a pickle. Star running back Ben Cowins, top receiver Donny Bobo, and another player were involved in an incident with a woman in a players' dorm. The woman ended up undressed, and when Holtz caught wind of the story he suspended all three players for the Razorbacks' Orange Bowl clash with Oklahoma.

young-clintonRunning back Cowins was a decent NFL prospect, and he needed the national exposure of the Orange Bowl to pump up his draft stock. He hired an attorney who filed a suit seeking an injunction to allow the three suspended players to appear in the Orange Bowl. Once Holtz came under legal fire, the university quickly sought top-notch counsel for him in the form of the Arkansas Attorney General, a promising young lawyer named Bill Clinton.

With the help of Clinton and his staff, Holtz's legal team defended the coach in U.S. District Court, and the players eventually withdrew their lawsuit. Obviously, it was a victory for team discipline, but wouldn't losing the offense's two biggest weapons kill the Razorbacks' Orange Bowl chances against the mighty Sooners? Not quite. Backup running back Roland Sales had an epic 205-yard, two-touchdown game, and the sixth-ranked Arkansas squad crushed number-two Oklahoma 31-6.

2. His Game Didn't Translate to the Pros

Holtz was a hot up-and-coming coaching talent in 1976. From 1969 to 1971 he'd helmed the College of William & Mary Tribe on a successful run that included what remains the school's only bowl appearance, a berth in the 1970 Tangerine Bowl. Holtz then jumped to North Carolina State and led the Wolfpack to four bowls in four years while piling up a 31-11-2 record.

Following the 1975 campaign, Holtz jumped to the pros to coach the New York Jets. While making the leap to the NFL seemed like a great opportunity, Holtz's time with the big boys turned out to be a complete debacle.

Even before the games started, Holtz's coaching tactics seemed a bit out of place in the NFL; he lined his players up by size for the national anthem and wrote a team fight song that none of the players wanted to sing.

The 1976 Jets stumbled out of the gate with four straight losses, including a humiliating 46-3 loss to the Broncos in Week 2. When the team, which was quarterbacked by an aging Joe Namath, saw its record fall to 3-10, Holtz quit before the season was even over. (Broadway Joe certainly didn't help Holtz any by completing less than half of his pass attempts.) In a recent interview with Chris Russo on Sirius XM, Holtz said he told Jets ownership that he planned to step down at the end of the season, and he was told to pack his bags immediately.

To his credit, Holtz admitted he bungled his time in the pros, saying, ''God did not put Lou Holtz on this earth to coach in the pros." He recovered nicely by grabbing the head-coaching job at Arkansas before the 1977 season.

3. His Friendship With Jesse Helms Cost Him

jesse_helmsWhen Holtz was at North Carolina State, he became chummy with North Carolina's ultraconservative Senator Jesse Helms. The two men continued their friendship even after Holtz moved on to Arkansas, and in 1983 Holtz appeared in a pair of commercials endorsing Helms. The people of Arkansas were less than delighted to see one of their state employees dabbling in another state's politics, but the move was particularly toxic for Holtz because Helms was in the midst of spearheading a charge to block Martin Luther King Day from becoming a national holiday.

As the outrage over the Holtz-Helms connection gained steam, Holtz resigned under pressure from his Arkansas job on December 19, 1983. He landed on his feet with the head-coaching gig at Minnesota and quickly tried to distance himself from political issues. Upon arriving in Minnesota, Holtz met with Governor Rudy Perpich and publicly told the popular Democrat, "I assure you this, I will have nothing to do with politics."

4. He Was a Golden Gopher For Life. Except Not.

When Holtz went to the University of Minnesota, he was under the impression that he was signing a lifetime contract. He wanted one exception, though: an out clause that let him leave to take the head coaching job at Notre Dame. The school agreed, but when Holtz received his copy of the lifetime contract, there was no "Notre Dame clause" in it. He refused to sign, and the Gophers eventually gave him a clause that allowed him to leave to take any job he wanted. Holtz's caution was justified; he got the Notre Dame job just two years later.

5. He's Quick With a Quip

Although Holtz had a well-deserved reputation as a motivator, some of his most memorable moments came when he was dishing well-timed one-liners, usually at his own expense. When Arkansas fans pelted the field with oranges to celebrate the 1977 Orange Bowl berth, Holtz observed, "Thank God we didn't get invited to the Gator Bowl."

During his first season as head coach at South Carolina in 1999, the Gamecocks went 0-11, prompting Holtz to dryly note, "We raise more money per win than any school in the land." Later, when Holtz had restored the Gamecocks' program to the point that one writer picked the team to win the SEC in a preseason poll, Holtz deadpanned, "[The writer] probably voted in crayon."

Another classic Holtz story comes from an attempt to make a little money early in his career by selling cemetery plots. His wife, Beth, warned, "You can't sell anything." Holtz later triumphantly joked, "She was wrong. By the end of the summer, I'd sold our stereo, our car, and our television."

Bob Hope Once Bailed Him Out

One bonus anecdote this week: Holtz and the late Bob Hope were pals and often played golf together. On at least one occasion, the friendship really paid dividends for Holtz. The coach flew to Milwaukee for a speaking engagement in July 1983, and after a ride in a sweltering taxi, Holtz badly needed a shower before stepping to the podium.

There was just one problem, though: when Holtz got to his hotel room, his key broke off in the lock. When maintenance couldn't open the door, the front desk told Holtz that unfortunately they were totally booked. When Holtz began to loudly despair, another guest opened his door to ask for a little peace and quiet. Holtz recognized the complaining voice as Hope's, and after a big laugh, the comedian let the coach crash in his room.

'5 Things You Didn't Know About...' appears every Friday. Read the previous installments here.


5 Things You Didn't Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs, but there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.


Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.


Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.


If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.


While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams' mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.


Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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5 Things You Should Know About Robert Todd Lincoln
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Robert Todd Lincoln was Abraham Lincoln's oldest son and the only Lincoln child to survive into adulthood. While he didn't make quite the mark on history that his father did, Robert Lincoln had a pretty interesting life himself. Let's take a look at five things you might not know about him:

1. He Was on Ulysses S. Grant's Personal Staff

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Part of Abraham Lincoln's mystique lies in his humble roots as a self-made man who found education where he could. His eldest son didn't have to go through quite as many trials and tribulations to do some learning, though. Robert left Springfield, Illinois, to attend boarding school at New Hampshire's elite Phillips Exeter Academy when he was a young man, and he later graduated from Harvard during his father's presidency.

After completing his undergrad degree, Robert stuck around Cambridge to go to Harvard Law School, but that arrangement didn't last very long. After studying law for just a few months, Lincoln received a commission as a captain in the army. Lincoln's assignment put him on Ulysses S. Grant's personal staff, so he didn't see much fighting. He did get a nice view of history, though; Lincoln was present as part of Grant's junior staff at Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

After the war ended, Lincoln moved to Chicago with his mother and brother and wrapped up his legal studies.

2. The Booth Family Did Him a Favor

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In 1863 or 1864, young Robert Lincoln was traveling by train from New York to Washington during a break from his studies at Harvard. He hopped off the train during a stop at Jersey City, only to find himself on an extremely crowded platform. To be polite, Lincoln stepped back to wait his turn to walk across the platform, his back pressed to one of the train's cars.

This situation probably seemed harmless enough until the train started moving, which whipped Lincoln around and dropped him into the space between the platform and train, an incredibly dangerous place to be.

Lincoln probably would have been dead meat if a stranger hadn't yanked him out of the hole by his collar. That stranger? None other than Edwin Booth, one of the most celebrated actors of the 19th century and brother of eventual Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth.

Lincoln immediately recognized the famous thespian "“ this was sort of like if George Clooney pulled you from a burning car today "“ and thanked him effusively. The actor had no idea whose life he had saved until he received a letter commending him for his bravery in saving the President's son a few months later.

3. He Had a Strange Knack for Being Near Assassinations

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Lee's surrender wasn't the only history Lincoln ended up witnessing, although things got a bit grislier for him after Appomattox. As he arrived back in Washington in April 1865 Lincoln's parents invited him to go see Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater with them. The young officer was so exhausted after his journey that he begged off so he could get a good night's sleep. That night, of course, John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln's father, and Robert Todd was with the celebrated president when he passed away the next morning.

By 1881, Lincoln's political lineage and prominence as a lawyer qualified him for a national office, and he became Secretary of War under the newly inaugurated James A. Garfield. That July, Lincoln was scheduled to travel to Elberon, New Jersey, by train with the President, but the trip never took off. Before Lincoln and Garfield's train could leave the station, Charles Guiteau shot the Garfield, who died of complications from the wound two months later.

Oddly, that wasn't all for Lincoln, though. Two decades passed without a presidential assassination, but Lincoln's strange luck reared its head again in 1901. Lincoln traveled to Buffalo at the invitation of President William McKinley to attend the Pan-American Exposition. Although he arrived a bit late to the even, Lincoln was on his way to meet McKinley when anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot the president twice at close range.

Following these three bits of bad luck Lincoln refused to attend any presidential functions. He dryly noted that there was "a certain fatality about the presidential function when I am present."

4. He Realized His Mom Was a Little Nutty

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Mary Todd Lincoln is fairly widely renowned today for being mentally ill, but it wasn't quite such an open secret when she was still alive. Robert, however, realized that his mother needed psychiatric help so she didn't become a danger to herself or an embarrassment to her family, so he had her involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in 1875 following a hearing that declared her insane.

Mary Todd was none too pleased about this plan. She not only snuck letters to her lawyer to help her escape from the institution, she also wrote newspaper editors in an effort to convince the public of her sanity. Mary Todd's ploy worked; at a second sanity hearing in 1876 she was declared sane and released from the Batavia, Illinois, sanatorium to which she'd been confined. However, by this point she'd been publicly humiliated and never really patched up her relationship with Robert before her death in 1882.

5. He Made Some Serious Dough on the Railroads


Once he got his legal practice up and running, Lincoln found a particularly lucrative clientele in the booming railroad industry. He spent most of his career working as a corporate lawyer for various railroads and train-related companies; the only breaks were his four-year stint as Secretary of War under Garfield and successor Chester A. Arthur and a four-year hitch as a minister to Britain under President Benjamin Harrison.

One of Lincoln's major clients was the Pullman Palace Car Company, for which he served as general counsel. When founder George Pullman died in 1897, Lincoln became president of the company, and in 1911 he became chairman of the Pullman Company's board. His lofty position in one of the country's most lucrative companies made him a millionaire and enabled Lincoln to build a sprawling estate, Hildene, in Manchester, Vermont.


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