Members of Lou Holtz's football coaching staff at Notre Dame encouraged a former lineman to use steroids, the player alleges in the Aug. 27 issue of Sports Illustrated. He also charges that Holtz ignored the severity of a shoulder injury that eventually required him to undergo reconstructive surgery.
In an article co-written with Sports Illustrated senior writer Rick Telander, one-time second-string center Steve Huffman recounts his three years in the university's football program, during which he quit twice, came down with mononucleosis and had academic difficulties before leaving the team for the second time, prior to the 1988 season.
Huffman depicts Holtz as a win-at-all-costs coach who "has little patience" with injured players. Huffman also writes of "widespread use of steroids" among his former teammates, describing what he labels the gap between common perceptions of Notre Dame football and what really occurs at the school.
"We have total faith in Lou Holtz, his staff and our medical staff in terms of their dealings with Steve during his stay at Notre Dame," the school's athletic director, Dick Rosenthal, said in a statement released by the Notre Dame sports information office. "We believe the statements he makes that the Notre Dame football team suffers from anabolic steroid or street drug abuse are completely untrue . . . Coach Holtz has serious disputes with Steve's characterization of their personal meetings and believes those portrayals to be untrue."
Holtz, 36-11 at Notre Dame since coming to the school in 1986, was unavailable for comment. Holtz had written about Huffman's departure in his recent book, "The Fighting Spirit . . . A Championship Season at Notre Dame."
"I've never seen anyone put a football team in a bind like an individual does by quitting," Holtz wrote in a passage that mentioned Huffman by name.
After seeing the passage, Huffman sought a forum for his side, according to Roger Jackson, public relations director of Sports Illustrated.
"I would say that almost half the lettermen at Notre Dame used steroids at some time," Huffman said in the article. "The percentage was highest among the linemen -- and not just the first-stringers. I know this because I saw it . . . One of my friends lived with a supplier, and guys would go to his room and get what they needed."
Huffman wrote extensively about steroids. "On separate occasions two assistant coaches told me they wanted me to get stronger and suggested that taking steroids might help do the job," he wrote, " . . . I'm told that other players say Holtz directly warned them not to use steroids, but I never heard it . . . Guys on the team did use steroids, and Holtz had to have known."
Huffman is one of eight children from a Texas family that includes current Minnesota Vikings lineman Dave Huffman and former Green Bay Packer Tim Huffman.
"He was paid a standard author's fee, which would be $5,000 for a first-person article of that length," Jackson said.
Huffman's last meeting with Holtz occurred before the 1988 season, when he approached the coach in hopes of convincing him to let him receive treatment for his ailing left shoulder.
But Holtz became angry at the suggestion, Huffman said, and told him that "everybody had to play hurt." When he told Holtz that he had a problem and needed help, Huffman said Holtz called him a coward.
Huffman then quit the team for the second time, and underwent reconstructive shoulder surgery in December 1988. In 1985, Huffman left the team after a disagreement with then-coach Gerry Faust.
"During the tenure of Lou Holtz, there never once has been a confrontation or dispute between the head coach or his staff and the medical staff about whether a player should attempt to play while injured," team physician Willard Yergler, who performed arthroscopic surgery on Huffman's shoulder in May 1988, said in a statement.