Schmidt invites a visitor to inspect the team's performance charts, which list the leaders, by position, in such events as the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, bench press and 300-yard shuttle run (a series of five 60-yard sprints). The charts reveal that nosetackle Zorich has the most formidable bench press, at 460 pounds, and also runs a 4.68 40.
After each season, players decide on "strength goals," which are fed into the Loftus Center's computer. The computer disgorges an individual weekly off-season workout schedule and keeps a four-year strength and conditioning profile of each player. For their four-times-a-week lifting sessions, athletes are broken down into intimate little "lifting groups." A player stays with the same group all year, so if he misses a session, it's hard to go unnoticed. Orwellian? Perhaps. Successful? Unquestionably.
Twice a week at prescribed times—class schedules are consulted to avoid conflicts—the players report to the Loftus Center for speed training, an hour of punishing agility drills and running with a concrete sled strapped to their waist.
Says Holtz: "Strength is great for their confidence"—and not merely confidence in their playing ability.
"One thing you notice about these guys," says Schmidt. "They'll fight you in a second." Indeed, the Christian virtue of turning the other cheek has taken it on the chin under Holtz, whose coaching style has restored the fight in the Fighting Irish. Recall the unseemly pregame rhubarb with Miami last year, initiated, to the nation's surprise, by the choirboys rather than the "convicts," as Notre Dame students had sanctimoniously dubbed the Hurricanes. Recall the eight personal fouls committed by the Irish in the Fiesta Bowl. University officials cluck their tongues at such behavior and coaches mouth condemnations of it, and meanwhile everyone is secretly tickled that the boys aren't taking guff anymore.
Notre Dame also brags about what it didn't do to get back to the top: no athletic dorms, no training table, no breaks from professors for athletes, no gut courses, no taking five years to get your degree, no anabolic steroids (they swear), and almost no social life during the season. "We do not alter the philosophy of the university for athletics," says executive vice-president Rev. William Beauchamp. "Everything we do must be a reflection of our primary mission, which is preparing our students to serve society and the church."
Cornerback Pat Terrell briefly forgot his mission at practice that very evening. Well after the whistle, Terrell got his hand inside a ballcarrier's face mask and pushed his head into the turf. Terrell had merely been exacting vengeance. Earlier, during a passing drill, the victim of Terrell's aggression had been overthrown. He walked back to the huddle, without retrieving the ball.
His Omniscience pounced on the young man. "Son, this is not a star system," screamed Holtz. "You do not have a caddie." Holtz had the entire team encircle the offender, then go through a grueling calisthenic called "up-downs."
"These are for you," Holtz shouted at the transgressor as the up-downs began. Later, he admitted they had been for everyone. He had sensed that practice was getting sloppy, and cracked a whip. Yet Holtz is just as quick to put his arm around a player who is down on himself. He is uncannily attuned to his charges, to whether they are fresh or tired, underconfident or cocky. He knows when to speak harshly and when to soothe. Excruciatingly organized, he nonetheless does not hesitate to improvise during practice. "I generally listen to my heart," he says.
The day before the up-downs, the team had run "gassers"—sideline-to-sideline sprints—after morning practice. The day was muggy, the air full of the sound of hard breathing. After 10 gassers, Holtz made an announcement. "I have instructed the coaches to have you out of your meetings by 9:30 tonight, so that you may observe the lunar eclipse. There will not be another one until 1992."