It was the most glorious of moments for a Notre Dame fan, running on the field in Tempe, Ariz., as triumphant coach Lou Holtz was carried off in the moments following the Irish’s 34-21 conquest of West Virginia and Major Harris in the national championship Fiesta Bowl game on New Year’s Day, 1989.
Holtz was jubilant until some jamoke jumped up and swiped the coach’s hat off his head and sprinted away in the opposite direction. I tried a quick arm tackle but missed and the scoundrel got away.
Now, years later, coach Holtz said the mystery has been solved.
“I spoke at an alumni dinner and this guy tells me he was the one who stole my hat,” Holtz said Tuesday. “He was in the Class of ’90. I told him, 'I can’t believe you ran away with my hat.’”
The repentant thief apologized but Holtz explained why it meant a lot more than what met the eye.
“After every big game, I would write the score and the date and then sign it,” Holtz said.
“Then when there was a request by some important charity, I would get it to them so they could auction it off.”
So somewhere in Dome Nation, there’s a Notre Dame hat, old school, with Jan. 1, 1989, Notre Dame 34, West Virginia 21 and a signature from Lou Holtz.
Remember it well. There hasn’t been another national championship since.