WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump calls Lou Holtz “one of the greatest coaches in American history” and has honored the college football Hall of Famer and political ally with the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Holtz had a 34-year coaching career that included the 1988 national title at the University of Notre Dame. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom during an Oval Office ceremony Thursday.
Holtz led six different programs to bowl games and is an outspoken Trump backer. The 83-year-old Holtz says being honored by Trump makes the award particularly meaningful. He says Trump is the “greatest president in my lifetime”
The award is given to people who have made "especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."
Trump announced he would award Holtz with the honor in September, saying he received letters from a number of prominent college football coaches, including Nick Saban and Urban Meyer, politicians and others.
"We looked at Lou's life and his career, what he's done for charity and the football, it's obvious he was a great coach, but what he's done beyond even coaching," Trump said during a September news conference.
Holtz has been a vocal supporter of President Trump and the Republican party. He spoke at the Republican National Convention in August, saying "nobody has been a stronger advocate for the unborn than President Trump."
Holtz coached college football for 33 years, most notably leading the Fighting Irish for 11 seasons from 1986-1996. Notre Dame won the national championship in 1988, finishing with a 12-0 record.
The Fighting Irish compiled a 100-30-2 record under Holtz, who retired following the 2004 season after six seasons coaching the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Holtz, 83, was diagnosed with COVID-19 in November. At the time, he told a Columbia, South Carolina TV station he didn't have much energy.
Trump was also diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this year before returning to the White House in October.