I'm not necessarily a fan of Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, but I feel compelled to come to his defense after reading Michael Wilbon's article "Finger Points at Holtz" {Sports, Aug. 24}. Wilbon takes some potshots at Holtz if in no other way than in agreeing wholeheartedly to the allegations of former player Steve Huffman. Further he makes his bias explicit by expressing his disdain for the irritating (to him and perhaps many others) and whining manner that Holtz sometimes affects to exaggerate a point.

Other schools have problems with players shooting each other, rapes and various and sundry arrest records. But let Notre Dame show indications of steroid use, admittedly a widespread problem in collegiate athletics, and an example of not pampering a chronically complaining athlete, and all hell breaks loose.

Huffman's allegations were nebulous, if not innocuous. Like the coaching staff at any school, the one at Notre Dame has the responsibility to motivate its players to get the most from them. The scorning of injuries may be a motivational tool to give players the impetus to condition themselves properly and to take all the necessary steps required to recover from injury. Missing therapy sessions, as Huffman did, does not indicate a person serious about doing all that is possible to get well.

In short, Huffman seems to be motivated by sour grapes (they wouldn't give him a ring), and Wilbon by his finding of Holtz to be "one of the more irritating men in college athletics."

-- Tim Dehan

As I understand it, the charge against Notre Dame is that it is not perfect {"A Real Fight for the Irish," Sports, Aug. 26}. Once again, I find myself in agreement with your paper. It is just your reasoning I question.

Notre Dame, your paper concluded, is not perfect because a former player alleged that his teammates were encouraged by certain (unnamed) coaches to use steroids. Never mind that there is no corroboration of this claim. Or that the university vehemently denied the allegations. Or that this player admitted to problems with previous coaches for failing to attend therapy sessions when hurt and in effect going AWOL while on scholarship.

Never mind that other members of this player's family have ill will toward Notre Dame's head coach, which might have tainted this player's judgment.

Never mind that Notre Dame was enforcing a no-steroid policy even before the NCAA had a policy on steroids.

What if the allegations of this individual were untrue?

Despite your failure to substantiate allegations, you're right about one thing -- Notre Dame is not perfect. It is just a small college in the Midwest with a strong history of striving to be the best and the record, academically and scholastically, to prove it. Guilty as charged.

But don't for a moment mistake that mud that Steve Huffman is flinging at the Golden Dome as tarnish. If any reputation has been tarnished, it's yours for reprinting his allegations without having more proof.

-- Brian J. McSweeney