President Donald Trump announced Friday that he would award famed Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Trump, at a White House press briefing and with Holtz in attendance, called the former coach an “incredible leader” and said Holtz earned the award because of his life, career and charitable work.
The Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor the president can award.
Trump said several college coaches wrote letters recommending Holtz for the award. He also referenced Holtz’s wife, Beth, who died in July, calling her a “special” and “great” person.
Holtz has been an avid supporter of Trump, and the president on Friday called him a longtime friend.
A date for the ceremony has not been announced but Trump said it would be scheduled in the “not too distant future.”
Paul Browne, vice president for public affairs and communications at Notre Dame, released a statement Friday night on the announcement:
“Lou Holtz is among America’s greatest college football coaches, leading Notre Dame to a national championship in 1988. But his contributions off the field have been equally inspiring, bringing attention and support to his hometown, alma mater, Catholic Charities, the Women’s Care Foundation, the Center for the Homeless in South Bend, and other worthy organizations through his charitable foundation.
“At Notre Dame, he and his late wife, Beth, served as research ambassadors, and the players he molded have added to his legacy through their own contributions through the Lou’s Lads Foundation. We presented Lou with an honorary degree in 2011 for his service on and off the field to Notre Dame and beyond, and we join now with his family and many friends in offering our sincere congratulations on this honor.”
The announcement comes in the wake of a speech Holtz gave at the Republican National Convention, in which he called Trump “a winner.”
“I used to ask our athletes at Notre Dame, ‘If you did not show up who would miss you and why?’” Holtz, 83, said in his speech. “Can you imagine what would happen to us if President Trump had not shown up in 2016 to run for president? I’m so glad he showed up.”
Holtz also caused controversy when he called the Biden-Kamala Harris ticket “the most radically pro-abortion campaign in history” and accused Biden of being a “Catholic in name only.”
Notre Dame later distanced itself from the comments. The university’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins, issued a statement saying Holtz’s comments “must not be taken to imply that the university endorses his views, any candidate or any political party.”
Jenkins also noted that “we Catholics should remind ourselves that while we may judge the objective moral quality of another’s actions, we must never question the sincerity of another’s faith, which is due to the mysterious working of grace in that person’s heart.”