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A Read On the Irish
Richard Hoffer
September 20, 1993
Notre Dame, attacked in a recent book, gave Michigan both chapter and verse
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September 20, 1993

A Read On The Irish

Notre Dame, attacked in a recent book, gave Michigan both chapter and verse

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If Notre Dame Football continues to generate books at the current pace, the Library of Congress may want to relocate to South Bend. Already this season three books about the Irish have been published, to add to the considerable shelf of existing literature. The next Notre Dame coach better know his Dewey decimal system as well as his X's and O's.

Actually the current coach, Lou Holtz, pretty much knows where he wants to catalog the new titles. The late athletic director Moose Krause's glowing tribute, Notre Dame's Greatest Coaches—he singles out Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian and Holtz—goes right alongside Holtz's chronicle of the 1988 national championship season. Less prominently displayed would be Shake Down the Thunder: The Creation of Notre Dame Football, a more objective look at the legend of Knute Rockne. According to its author, Murray Sperber, Rockne bet on his own team, and the academic transcript of George Gipp was blank for two years.

As for Under the Tarnished Dome: How Notre Dame Betrayed Its Ideals for Football Glory, Holtz (and the rest of Notre Dame) wants to file it under the rug. The book, published last week, with its allegations of steroid abuse, player abuse and double standards for athletes, has left Holtz increasingly wan and drawn, and frustrated by a university-imposed gag order that has prevented him from commenting on it. Whatever review he would like to give Under the Tarnished Dome, he is forced to mutter over and over, "I have not read the book, I will not read the book..." and look straight ahead, like a man who has found out his dog died.

Even while preparing for Michigan, which hadn't lost in a couple of years and planned to contend for the national championship, Holtz was being asked about "distractions." Even as Holtz was downplaying his team's chances—the offense, sans NFL-starter Rick Mirer, was suspect after a weak showing against Northwestern in the season opener, and Holtz was the first to point this out—he was being asked about supposed failures in policy detailed in Tarnished Dome. "I have not read the book," he intoned.

Even last Saturday, after his team had beaten Michigan 27-23, and after a quarterback who has still not won the Irish starting job had passed for 208 yards and run for 66 more and two touchdowns, somebody asked Holtz about "distractions." Poor guy. Holtz stared straight ahead and said, "I have not...."

However, if the Irish play many games like Saturday's, the publishing industry will return to its traditional job of raiding Notre Dame for inspirational material, and Holtz can give heartfelt reviews. This game will certainly be a central chapter.

Notre Dame was a decided underdog against the Wolverines, but not because of distractions. The Irish didn't have a satisfactory offensive line, end to end, and quarterback Kevin McDougal had received more fame as a teenage motocross racer than as a passer. McDougal wasn't exactly a brand name when he was recruited along with B.J. Hawkins and Clint Johnson to sit behind Mirer for three seasons. Holtz was apparently so unfamiliar with McDougal that he once identified him by consolidating all his quarterbacks' names. He called him Clint McHawkins.

Even in this, his senior year, McDougal was scheduled for backup duties. Freshman Ron Powlus so bedazzled Notre Dame coaches in preseason practice that he was almost sure to start, until he was lost for up to three months with a cracked collarbone in the team's final scrimmage. After Powlus's injury, McDougal was still only tabbed to share time with junior Paul Failla. "It gets frustrating at times," McDougal said last week.

He had been less than spectacular against Northwestern, which the Irish beat 27-12. And Holtz's enthusiasm for the passing game was revealed when he permitted McDougal and Failla to team up for 11 passes against the Wildcats. When asked about his offense, Holtz said, "Yeah, it looks scary right now." You had the feeling that Holtz wanted to watch McDougal the same way McDougal's mother does. "She comes to games," McDougal says, "but closes her eyes."

If Holtz wasn't reading Tarnished Dome, he apparently was reading other discouraging material. News of Michigan's new Fab Five, a collection of speedy receivers who were going to make quarterback Todd Collins famous, was positively dispiriting. Holtz did not regard Collins, by the way, as a desperate replacement for Elvis Grbac. Collins may have been an upgrade. And Tyrone Wheatley? With 117 yards rushing in Michigan's opening win over Washington State, he topped 2,000 for his career, and he's only a junior. "That's a big-play football team," Holtz said of the Wolverines.

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