"I will have nothing to do with politics," Lou Holtz declared in 1983, assuring his new bosses in Minnesota that his days of endorsing race-baiting gasbags for Senate were over. Now he wants to run for Congress. Flip-flop!
It was December 1983, and Holtz had just been named the Golden Gophers' new head coach, having resigned under pressure as coach of Arkansas the week before. People attributed his departure to two commercials in which he endorsed Sen. Jesse Helms, the onetime Dixiecrat whom Holtz met while coaching at North Carolina State and who is probably still race-mongering in some integrated corner of hell. Here's how one book put it:
Lou's old friend Jesse was conducting a one-man filibuster against the establishment of Martin Luther King Day while the Arkansas staff was calling black mothers trying to recruit their sons.
Lou wasn't that political. He just liked being invited to the White House and knowing powerful friends.
Not long after his hiring in Minnesota, Holtz took to the air and announced he would forswear politics:
In a conversation with Gov. Rudy Perpich broadcast by WCCO-AM in Minneapolis, Holtz told the Democratic governor, "I'll assure you this, I will have nothing to do with politics."
"I understand the governor (Perpich) is a Democrat and he's definitely popular and I'm not a Democrat," Holtz said. "I'm probably a Republican, but I'm sure the governor would agree that as a citizen we have the obligation to get involved in government and be heard."
But Holtz said that as a public figure, he will "under no circumstances, get involved in controversial issues."
Now the probable Republican wants to represent Florida's 24th district. "You put him in the ring and it's all but over," John Dowless, an Orlando-based Republican consultant, told the Orlando Sentinel. This is apparently because Central Florida is so starved for star wattage that a lisping, befuddled 72-year-old who might as well have just stepped off Friz Freleng's drafting board and who occasionally makes mystifying appearances on television nevertheless constitutes, in Dowless' words, "huge" name ID. Somehow, I doubt this will end any better than the last time Holtz dipped his toe into politics. But who knows. Maybe Holtz will turn out to be a great leader, too.