Lou Holtz retired last season from his college football gig on ESPN, but if he ever were to take part in another mock trial arguing his case opposite “lawyer” Mark May in front of “judge” Chris Fowler, the former Notre Dame coach would advocate for an expansion of the two-year-old College Football Playoff system from four teams to eight.
“It’s a shame when you have five conference champions that all five do not have a chance,” Holtz told Newsday on Saturday at the Steiner Sports “Perfect Show” for sports memorabilia enthusiasts at Adelphia University. “Last year, had Notre Dame beaten Stanford, (the CFP) would have had to (choose between) Notre Dame or Oklahoma, both with the same record.
“Oklahoma is a conference champion, but Notre Dame is a national brand. Notre Dame beat Texas, and Texas beat Oklahoma. Now do you take Notre Dame and turn you back on the Big 12 champion two years in a row (as in 2014 when Baylor and TCU tied)? It would have been interesting to see.”
Looking at last year’s candidates, Holtz suggested that, in addition to the Power Five conference champions (Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Michigan State and Stanford, which was bypassed) that American Athletic Conference champion Houston could have represented the Group of Five conference schools, and Notre Dame and Big Ten runner-up Ohio State could have rounded out an eight-team field.
“It would really be fair,” Holtz said. “I think that’s what we’ll get to eventually.”
While he celebrates the success of the college game, Holtz has a hard time accepting how drastically the landscape has changed as a result of realignment. “At one time, there was a conference because you had the same academic objectives, you had the same athletic objectives, you had the same financial objectives and you were geographically in somewhat the same area,” Holtz said. “That was the basis for a conference. That is no longer true now.
“If BYU joins the Big 12, think about West Virginia [and how far apart it is]. Would somebody explain to me how Missouri is in the Eastern Division of the SEC? I passed geography, but I would have sure flunked that one.
“The amount of money coming into it now is really unbelievable… Coaches make far too much money. I made $135,000 at Notre Dame. That was the most I ever made.”
The one thing Holtz said he worries about in college football is the increase in concussions. He attributes that to players using the crown of the helmet as a weapon in tackling. That wasn’t a technique Holtz used as a player or taught as a coach.
“When I played, we never did that,” Holtz said. “I say, take the face mask off the helmet. People in rugby don’t have concussions because they don’t use their head because they don’t have a helmet. You get a hard helmet, and that becomes a battering ram.”
Wonder what ESPN’s May would have to say to that.