President Trump on Thursday awarded Notre Dame’s legendary former football coach Lou Holtz the Presidential Medal of Freedom — and Holtz reciprocated by hailing Trump as the “greatest president during my lifetime.”
Holtz, 83, received the nation’s highest civilian honor in the Oval Office after surviving COVID-19 last month.
“Wherever Lou went, football glory followed,” Trump said.
“Everybody loves him. Everybody respects him. Tough as hell,” Trump said. “I never coached football, I coached life, he said.”
A tightly packed group of invited guests chanted “Lou! Lou!”
“I want to assure you how proud I am, not only to receive the award — I’m even prouder to receive it from President Donald Trump, who I think was the greatest president during my lifetime, Holtz gushed.
Trump said in early September that he would give Holtz the award, but the ceremony was delayed by Trump’s packed campaign schedule ahead of the Nov. 3 election, and by Trump’s own COVID-19 treatment in October.
The White House said in a Wednesday statement, “America recognizes Lou Holtz as one of the greatest football coaches of all time for his unmatched accomplishments on the gridiron, but he is also a philanthropist, author, and true American patriot.”
Holtz is best known for coaching the Notre Dame football team between 1986 and 1996, including an undefeated streak in 1988. He also coached the New York Jets for one season, in 1976.
“Holtz earned an outstanding 100-30-2 record in 11 seasons at the University of Notre Dame,” the White House said in its Wednesday release. “His 1988 team earned a perfect 12-0 record and were crowned national champions. Most importantly, he inspired generations of young athletes along the way.”
Donald Trump presents the Medal of Freedom to former college football coach Lou Holtz.Getty Images
Holtz held coaching positions from the early 1960s through early 2000s at other schools, including the University of South Carolina, the University of Arkansas and the College of William and Mary.
He spoke at the Republican National Convention in August and called Trump a “consistent winner.”
“In President Trump, we have a president we can trust, who works hard at making America greater and who genuinely cares about people,” Holtz said. “If I apply this test to Joe Biden, I can’t say ‘Yes’ to any of these three questions.”
Notre Dame distanced itself from Holtz’s vocal support for Trump.
University president John Jenkins said that “his use of the University’s name at the Republican National Convention must not be taken to imply that the University endorses his views, any candidate or any political party.”