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.


Getty Images
5 Things You Should Know About Robert Todd Lincoln
Getty Images
Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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 event, 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

Getty Images

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.

16 404 Pages That Are Worth the Error

The poem above is old, but the sentiment is universal. I first saw the verse at Plinko's error page, but the original author is nowhere to be found, although the verse owes a lot to Edgar Allan Poe. Looking for something on the internet that leads to an error page is frustrating, but there's an art to alleviating the reader's pain. Only this, and nothing more. Some websites make their 404 page entertaining in itself, and a few make it a real treat. You might even be distracted from what you were trying to find in the first place!

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is all about movies, so it makes sense that their error page gives you a well-known quote about your situation. There are about a dozen quotes that rotate, with some exact quotes, and some that are altered for the occasion.

BedMap is a hotel finder. They also found a great movie quote to adapt for their error page.

The Association for Computing Machinery's error page talks to you in text. The message goes on way after what you see here, until you feel much sorrier for the poor web server than you feel for yourself.

The error page at the game Brain Chef does the same thing as ACM, but instead of becoming melancholy, it flirts with you! And it keeps on, trying to keep you from navigating elsewhere.

The 404 page at Everlasting Blort acknowledges that the server is just as confused as you are. The page contains a flashing .gif that may trigger reactions if you suffer from photosensitive epilepsy. Those who visit Blort often already know that disorientation is what you go there for in the first place.

NPR's error page looks pretty normal for National Public Radio, but it cleverly contains a list of other things besides your missing destination link that cannot be found. After Amelia Earhart and the erased Watergate tape, they list Jimmy Hoffa, your luggage, Atlantis, and Waldo. Each item links to an article about the subject.

Homestar Runner blames you for the error. Which is just as well- I blame them for not adding anything new for years. Still, if you haven't seen all the cartoons, they are there for your enjoyment. But the other error messages they've used over the years were memorable as well.

Lesson learned: don't ever cram a Swiss cake roll into your disc drive.

This Russian business site 404 page is liable to make you forget what you were looking for, even if you don't understand a word of Russian (or Romanian -thanks, !). Let's all dance! This animation is found at more than one Russian site, so it's probably a feature of the hosting service. Warning: the song might be in your head all day.

Blue Fountain Media would like to develop websites and apps for you, but if you reach their error page instead, they offer on online version of Pac-Man for you to play. That makes everything all better, doesn't it?

Titlest golf equipment knows when you've lost a link, and they'll pitch in to help you look for it. In the rough. They've found a lot of golf balls there, after all.

Joel Veitch composed a song and video for Rathergood's 404 page. As you might guess, it's sung by a kitten.

Oh dear, you've got a 404
This isn't what you came here for
Oh dear, you've got a 404, there's nothing here to see
Oh dear, you've got a 404
This isn't what you came here for
Now that you're here, let's have a 404 party!

It's just as silly as anything you could possibly be looking for in his archives.

Woodland Farmers Market sells fresh produce in Washington state. They are also Star Wars fans and punsters.

Mashable did not find the page you're looking for. But they found your socks, so that's a plus, huh? Hey wait, who's wearing my socks? Oh, that's okay, they've got a hole in them anyway.

Bluegg is a company that designs websites. They also designed a sweet 404 page that says,

Ahhhhhhhhhhh! This page doesn't exist
Not to worry. You can either head back to our homepage, or sit there and listen to a goat scream like a human.

I listened to that goat scream quite a few times while preparing this item.

The Rolling Stones website gives you a video on their error page. A very appropriate video.

To be honest, these error pages came from a list that I've been keeping for seven years now. I just added to the list as I found great 404 pages, but I hadn't stopped to check how long the list was until recently. Over the years, many great error pages were lost because the website went out of business. Others just don't seem that creative anymore. Some error pages were changed or gutted due to copyright violations. To save time, I had kept a few posts that were lists of great error pages. Now I find that those posts no longer exist, and the links redirect to boring, everyday error pages. If you know of a wonderful error page everyone should see, please tell us about it!


More from mental floss studios