Lou Holtz says conference vs. conference rivalries ‘not good for the game’


Lou Holtz is a former national championship winning coach, college football analyst and public speaker who knows just a little bit about the game, and he says these conference vs. conference rivalries are not what’s best for college football.

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During the time that the SEC won seven straight national championships, the smack-talk in college football evolved from my team is better than your team, to your conference stinks and ours is the most powerful. The oft-maligned chant of “S-E-C…S-E-C…S-E-C” was the true catalyst of what we now see as conference rivalries.

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But former Notre Dame coach and ESPN analyst Lou Holtz doesn’t think conference head-butting is best of the game of college football, and he, along with partner Kingsford Charcoal, are urging fans to put aside these silly conference battles and return to the roots of the game.

I spoke with the coach about inter-conference games, and what the future holds for college football’s rivalries.

“This isn’t a good thing, all this my conference is better than yours and talk about how one conference is weak and doesn’t belong in the playoffs. It used to be about cheering for your team,” Holtz told me. “That’s why I think fans should try to set aside differences and enjoy themselves and the game.”

Coach Holtz has teamed up with the folks at Kingsford to promote conference friendship, asking folks to go to the Kingsford website, pick out a good recipe and invite someone over from a rival conference to share some delicious grilled food.

“We’d love folks who are fans from one conference to just call up someone from another and say something nice and promote some good will. All this bickering is just bad and we don’t need it.”

Of course, the inter-conference games are part of why we love college football, but like many, coach Holtz agrees that changes need to be made in how these games are scheduled and what the College Football Playoff Committee can do to help.

“If [the playoff committee] will just look at what’s in front of them and do what’s necessary, then expansion of the playoffs is going to happen. We need to have an eight-team field that includes all five conference champions from the Power-5.  I mean, look at what we’ve got. You have five big conferences, and everyone else, and then only four playoff spots. This system is part of what’s fueling this conference vs. conference talk.

Oct 16, 2013; Irving, TX, USA; College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock (left) and new chairman of the playoff committee Jeff Long right) answer questions during a press conference at the College Football Playoff Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

“If they want to keep the same four-team format in place, then they should go back to where all the bowl games end by January 1st, and then after all those bowl games are finished, they should then pick the four best teams to play in a playoff. That’s when you’d see who really was the best.”

I asked coach Holtz about scheduling FCS games as non-conference opponents, and whether or not this new playoff system was doing enough to discourage the practice of cupcake scheduling. Can it backfire? Absolutely.

“If you take a long look at the schedule, more upsets happen during the first week of the season than any other week. Like North Dakota State coming in and beating Kansas State a couple of years ago, or when Appalacian State upset Michigan in 2007. And I’ll tell you why this happens.

“Teams are just tired. They spend so much time getting ready and working hard for this opening week that they don’t really take any time to recover. They’re physically tired and mentally tired, and their legs go dead.

“I definitely think teams should be penalized for scheduling FCS teams. I mean, who wants to see that? And if you look at teams in the SEC, they have non-conference games who are rivalries, like Georgia and Georgia Tech or South Carolina and Clemson. These teams will schedule an FCS team the week before that rivalry game so that they basically have two weeks to get ready for that game.”

These opening week non-conference games get a lot of hype, and especially now with everyone thinking conference vs. conference, but in the end, do they really matter?

“Even if you lose, it doesn’t matter many times,” said Holtz. “I remember in 1995, [Notre Dame] was ranked no. 9 in the nation, and we opened the year against Northwestern. They came into Notre Dame Stadium and beat us. Everyone said ‘oh my god, the sky is falling’, but you know what? We went on to have a great season and got to play FSU in the Orange Bowl, and Northwestern won the Big Ten. So these games don’t really tell you much.”

In the end, it’s all about your team and where you finish. And the longtime coach may be right, if the playoffs expand then maybe there will be less talk about which conference is weak and doesn’t deserve to be in the playoffs over another.


Next: 10 Teams Who Are In the Wrong Conference

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