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Holtz happy to coach Notre Dame alumni in 75th anniversary game

by Kaz Nagatsuka

What a summer it will be for American football fans in Japan.

Lou Holtz, one of U.S. college football’s coaching legends, will once again be wearing a navy jacket and cap on the sidelines to represent the University of Notre Dame in the 2009 Notre Dame Japan Bowl, which will be played on July 25 at Tokyo Dome as a memorial event for the 75th anniversary of the introduction of the sport in Japan.

“We feel honored and privileged to be asked to come over here to help Japan celebrate its 75th anniversary of football,” said Holtz on Friday in Tokyo.

This summer, Holtz will lead the alumni team, which is named the Fighting Irish Legends and consists of former players. Holtz’s squad will face the Japan national team, which is led by Kajima Deers head coach Kiyoyuki Mori

Holtz said: “And we, with every intention, represent Notre Dame with first-class men on the field . . . and off the field.

“Notre Dame has a great tradition, won national championships, has more people in the (College) Hall of Fame (than any other school), and the greatest fight song in the world . . . and I still get thrilled when I hear it.”

Holtz said that he and his coaching staff, including 1987 Heisman Trophy winner and former Oakland Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown and other notable names, will hold tryouts and select players for the squad starting in April.

The veteran coach, who has guided the U.S. team in the Japan Bowl four times, revealed he’s uncertain which players will make the team at this point.

But Holtz is still confident about his would-be squad, saying, “Every player you are going to be given is an outstanding player. They started at Notre Dame.”

He mentioned that quarterback Tony Rice, who guided the Fighting Irish to the ’88 national championship, will be reunite with his former coach in Tokyo.

Also, Holtz surprised the 100 or so reporters at the news conference by revealing that former NFL great Joe Montana plans to visit Japan as a special ambassador for the bowl game, but is not scheduled to play.

Holtz, 72, was the coach at Notre Dame for 11 seasons (1986-96), and led it to the national championship in ’88. His record at the school in South Bend, Ind., was 100-30-2 (249-132-7 overall record and 22 bowls appearances), and he was chosen the Coach of the Year in ’77 and ’88. His lengthy coaching career at the college level began in 1969 while at William & Mary, and it also included stops at South Carolina, Minnesota, Arkansas and North Carolina State. He also served as the New York Jets’ head coach in 1976, but the team had a disastrous 3-10 campaign.

Holtz, who was inducted into College Football Hall of Fame in May 2008, is currently a college football studio analyst for ESPN.

The kickoff time for the first-ever Notre Dame Japan Bowl will be announced later.