ND Assistants: Holtz To Kelly (Part 1)

A Notre Dame-record 34 assistant coaches worked under Holtz, including legendary offensive line coach Joe Moore, and future head coaches Barry Alvarez and Urban Meyer.

With the addition of Chip Long, Mike Elko, Del Alexander, Clark Lea and Tom Rees to the 2017 Notre Dame coaching staff, there have been 202 assistant football coaches who have worked for the Fighting Irish.

Alphabetically, it starts with current Boston College head coach Steve Addazio through 1956-58 “ends” coach Jack Zilly.

(Note: The 202 includes David Cutcliffe, who was hired as offensive coordinator by Charlie Weis prior to the 2005 season, but never served for the Irish due to health issues.)

Since 1913, when Notre Dame first listed assistant coaches, the manpower obviously has expanded. Knute Rockne was the “first assistant” under Jesse Harper before ascending to head coach in 1918. Rockne was Harper’s only full-time assistant coach from 1914-18.

Five assistants helped instruct Rockne’s 1928 team, and six, including former Irish player and Rockne successor Heartley “Hunk” Anderson, coached the 1930 team. The first seven-man assistant staff worked under Frank Leahy during Notre Dame’s 1946 national championship season.

By 1949, there were eight, and by 1953, there were nine, including future Irish head coach Terry Brennan and former Notre Dame Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lujack.

Technically, there are still nine full-time assistants in present-day college football, although the proliferation of graduate assistants, analysts and interns has turned coaching staffs into virtual conglomerates.

Former Irish quarterback Tom Rees will be the 10th assistant coach on the 2017 staff, although ratification of a 10th full-time assistant won’t come until 2018.

The following is a brief look at the assistants who have served at Notre Dame, beginning with the Lou Holtz era in 1986. Parts 2 through 5 of our series – the staffs of Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham, Charlie Weis and Brian Kelly – will follow.

HOLTZ’S FIRST STAFF

Holtz brought recruiting coordinator Vinny Cerrato, receivers coach Pete Cordelli and tight ends coach George Stewart with him from Minnesota in 1986. He tabbed former Pittsburgh head coach Foge Fazio as his first defensive coordinator following Fazio’s dismissal by the Panthers in ’85.

Holtz’s first staff had a Notre Dame flavor with former Ara Parseghian assistant Mike Stock, who had returned to Notre Dame under Gerry Faust, and legendary defensive line coach Joe Yonto, who served under Parseghian and Dan Devine.

Holtz tabbed Kurt Schottenheimer from LSU to instruct the linebackers, Terry Forbes from Akron to direct the secondary, and Tony Yelovich from Stanford to coach the offensive line. 

THE REVOLVING DOOR

No Fighting Irish head coach had more assistants work for him at Notre Dame during his tenure than Holtz. By the end of his 11-year run (1986-96), a total of 34 assistant coaches had served under Holtz.

The turnover could be attributed mostly to the success the Irish had under Holtz. It also displayed his high standards with Notre Dame assistants who didn’t rise to his standard.

The longest tenured assistant coaches at Notre Dame under Holtz were Joe Moore (9 seasons), Yelovich (8), and Cerrato, Cordelli and Earle Mosley (5 each). Other than those five coaches, only his son, Skip, and former Irish quarterback Tom Clements (4 each) worked for Holtz at Notre Dame longer than three seasons.
 
All told, 12 Holtz assistants eventually became head coaches on the collegiate level after working at Notre Dame:
• Barry Alvarez (Wisconsin)
• Pete Cordelli (Kent State)
• John Palermo (Austin Peay)
• Peter Vaas (Holy Cross)
• Ron Cooper (Eastern Michigan, Louisville, Alabama A&M, Florida International)
• Skip Holtz (Connecticut, East Carolina, South Florida, Louisiana Tech)
• Rick Minter (Cincinnati)
• Bob Davie (Notre Dame, New Mexico)
• Dave Roberts (Western Kentucky, Northeast Louisiana, Baylor)
• Jim Strong (UNLV)
• Gary Darnell (Tennessee Tech, Western Michigan)
• Urban Meyer (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida, Ohio State)
• Charlie Strong (Louisville, Texas, South Florida)

Seven assistants left Notre Dame for the NFL: Fazio (Atlanta Falcons), Schottenheimer (Cleveland Browns), Stewart (Pittsburgh Steelers), Mosley (Chicago Bears), Clements (New Orleans Saints after one year of practicing law), Keith Armstrong (Atlanta Falcons), and Mike Trgovac (Philadelphia Eagles).

Here is the year-by-year breakdown of Holtz’s Notre Dame staffs:

1986 (5-6)
Offense
• OC/RB-Mike Stock
• WR-Pete Cordelli
• TE-George Stewart
• OL-Tony Yelovich

Defense
• DC/ILB-Foge Fazio
• DL-Joe Yonto
• OLB-Kurt Schottenheimer
• DB-Terry Forbes

Recruiting
• RC-Vinny Cerrato

1987 (8-4)
Offense
• OC/RB-Jim Strong
• WR-Pete Cordelli
• TE-George Stewart
• OL-Tony Yelovich

Defense
• DC/ILB-Foge Fazio
• DL-Joe Yonto
• OLB-Barry Alvarez
• DB-Terry Forbes

Recruiting
• RC-Vinny Cerrato

1988 (12-0)
Offense
• OC/RB-Jim Strong
• WR-Pete Cordelli
• TE-George Stewart
• OT/TE-Joe Moore
• G/C-Tony Yelovich

Defense
• DC/LB-Barry Alvarez
• DL-John Palermo
• DB-Chuck Heater

Recruiting
• RC-Vinny Cerrato

1989 (12-1)
Offense
• OC/RB-Jim Strong
• QB-Pete Cordelli
• WR-Tony Yelovich
• OL-Joe Moore

Defense
• Asst. HC/DC/LB-Barry Alvarez
• DT-John Palermo
• DE-Jay Hayes
• DB-Chuck Heater

Recruiting
• RC-Vinny Cerrato

1990 (9-3)
Offense
• QB-Pete Cordelli
• RB-Peter Vaas
• WR/TE-Tony Yelovich
• OL-Joe Moore

Defense
• DC/LB-Gary Darnell
• DL-Dick Bumpas
• OLB-Jay Hayes
• DB-Chuck Heater

Recruiting
• RC-Vinny Cerrato

1991 (10-3)
Offense
• QB-Peter Vaas
• RB-Tom Beck
• WR-Skip Holtz
• OL-Joe Moore

Defense
• DC/ILB-Gary Darnell
• DL-Dick Bumpas
• OLB-Jay Hayes
• DB-Ron Cooper

Special Teams/Recruiting
• ST/RC-Tony Yelovich

1992 (10-1-1)
Offense
• OC/WR-Skip Holtz
• QB-Tom Clements
• RB-Earle Mosley
• OL-Joe Moore

Defense
• DC/B-Rick Minter
• Asst. HC/DB-Ron Cooper
• DL-Mike Trgovac
• DE-Joe Wessel

Special Teams/Recruiting
• ST/RC-Tony Yelovich

1993 (11-1)
Offense
• OC/WR-Skip Holtz
• QB-Tom Clements
• RB-Earle Mosley
• OL-Joe Moore

Defense
• DC/LB-Rick Minter
• Asst. HC/DL-Mike Trgovac
• DE/ST-Keith Armstrong
• DB-Joe Wessel

Special Teams/Recruiting
• ST/RC-Tony Yelovich

1994 (6-5-1)
Offense
• OC/WR-Dave Roberts
• QB-Tom Clements
• RB-Earle Mosley
• OL-Joe Moore
• TE/RC-Bob Chmiel

Defense
• DC-Bob Davie
• Asst. HC/DL-Mike Trgovac
• LB/ST-Kirk Doll
• DB-Dean Pees

1995 (9-3)
Offense
• OC/QB-Dave Roberts
• RB-Earle Mosley
• Asst. HC/WR-Tom Clements
• TE/RC-Bob Chmiel
• OL-Joe Moore

Defense
• DC/ILB-Bob Davie
• DL-Charlie Strong
• LB/ST-Kirk Doll
• DB-Tom McMahon

1996 (8-3)
Offense
• OC/QB-Dave Roberts
• RB-Earle Mosley
• WR-Urban Meyer
• TE/RC-Bob Chmiel
• OL-Joe Moore

Defense
• DC/ILB-Bob Davie
• DL-Charlie Strong
• DE/ST-Kirk Doll
• DB-Tom McMahon


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