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President Donald J. Trump awarded the Medal of Freedom to legendary coach Lou Holtz on Thursday morning, calling him “one of the greatest titans in American football history.”
“Lou’s leadership and his faith and kindness have inspired and uplifted millions of fellow citizens,” Trump said from a podium in the Oval Office, later adding: “His towering reputation will endure forever in the chronicles of athletics, but more importantly, in the chronicles of life, because he’s really a life teacher, that’s what he is.”
President Trump just awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz. pic.twitter.com/ukRr4qpNSi
— WNDU (@WNDU) December 3, 2020
Trump recalled Holtz’s record of rebuilding college football programs during his Hall of Fame career. Holtz spent 33 seasons as a head coach in the collegiate ranks, perhaps best known for his 11-year tenure at the University of Notre Dame, where he led the Fighting Irish to a national title in 1988.
“I want to assure you of how proud I am, not only to receive the award – I’m even prouder to receive it from President Donald Trump, who I think is the greatest president of my lifetime,” the 83-year-old Holtz said.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) December 3, 2020
The White House described the Medal of Freedom as “the Nation’s highest civilian honor, which may be awarded by the President to individuals 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.”
Holtz also had stints at William & Mary, North Carolina State, Arkansas, Minnesota, and South Carolina, before retiring from coaching in 2004.
He did coach in the NFL for one forgettable year in 1976, when the New York Jets finished 3-10. It was quarterback Joe Namath’s last season with the team.
Several reporters at Thursday’s ceremony emphasized that many attendees did not wear face coverings, noting that both Trump and Holtz had previously contracted coronavirus. A headline from The Washington Post reads, “Mask-free President Trump confers medal to mask-free Lou Holtz, who’s recovering from covid-19.” Holtz had confirmed he tested positive two weeks ago, on November 19.
Trump awarding the Medal of Freedom to Lou Holtz in a crowded Oval Office ceremony where barely anyone is wearing masks, including Lindsey Graham, John Ratcliffe and Pat Cipollone pic.twitter.com/Qrlw1S4iou
— Jordan Fabian (@Jordanfabian) December 3, 2020
Holtz has been a staunch ally of President Trump, speaking on his behalf at the Republican National Convention in 2016, when critics condemned comments Holtz reportedly made about immigration. In a recorded message broadcast during a virtual RNC this year, Holtz accused the Democratic ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris of being “the most radically pro-abortion campaign in history.” He added, “They and other politicians are Catholics in name only and abandon innocent lives.” Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, later distanced the university from Holtz’s remarks.
As ESPN reported, President Trump has bestowed the Medal of Freedom on several high-profile figures from the sports world during his time in office:
Others include former NFL Hall of Famer and Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page, Olympic track and field athlete and former Rep. Jim Ryun, golfer Tiger Woods, businessman and motorsports icon Roger Penske, Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, pro basketball greats Bob Cousy and Jerry West, and baseball legends Babe Ruth and Mariano Rivera.
“I’m recognized for what other people did,” Holtz said on Thursday. “I never made a block or a tackle, but I did try to teach people to make good choices; that’s all I’ve ever tried to do.”
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