NOTRE DAME, IND. -- For one of the new coaches on the Irish staff, there were to be more chills than usual when he emerged from the tunnel for the start of the Michigan game before a sold-out crowd Saturday night.
Skip Holtz will be coaching his first game with his father.
"This is a special place to me and it has a special place in my heart," the younger Holtz said. "It is the school I picked out of high school."
"But to have the opportunity to work with my dad -- one of the best -- is very, very special for me."
Don't think Skip, the new Irish receivers coach, is the mere beneficiary of fatherly patronage. He brings a sincere desire and solid credentials to a job that has grown in importance with a revamped Irish offense.
In fact, his father tried to talk him out of the profession.
"When I told him after my junior year, he said don't do it, it's a crazy profession, you're always moving around, it's hard to have a strong family life and so on and so on," recalled Holtz.
"I told him I know that, I'd been around it all my life and it's what I wanted to do.
"He kept trying to discourage me but finally said, 'If you're set in your ways, make sure your mother is unarmed when you tell her.' "
As a graduate assistant for two years under Bobby Bowden, he coached the "Fab Four" at Florida State. Ronald Lewis, Terry Anthony and Bruce Lasane are now in the pros and the fourth receiver, Larry Dawsey, is considerd one of FSU's best receivers this year and a preseason All-America.
He was receivers coach at Colorado State last year and when his father called he was regarded so highly CSU Coach Earle Bruce didn't want to let him go.
The other assistants at Notre Dame, especially offensive line coach Joe Moore who originally contacted him about the position, have developed respect for him as a coach, not as the coach's son.
In the last three years, Notre Dame hasn't had a receivers coach. Except for Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, the Irish receivers were extensions of the tackles, used as blockers in the option offense.
Pete Cordelli worked with both the receivers and the quarterbacks.
With the departure of Tony Rice and a switch in offensive strategy to a passing game suited to Rick Mirer, the Irish staff felt it essential Cordelli devote his full time to the young quarterbacks and that another coach have sole responsibility for developing receivers who could maximize Mirer's skills.
The difficulty was that all nine paid coaching positions on the Irish staff were filled. Skip Holtz would have to work as a volunteer.
"It was a demotion with my title but it was a big jump up in the program," Skip said. "They told me I would have the wide receivers to myself and I jumped at it.
"I have to dig into those savings, but just to have the opportunity to be back at Notre Dame and to have the opportunity to work under a man, who, to me, is the best motivator in the country and a master, was too much to pass up.
"I'm not in the profession for money," he said. "If I was going to work for money, I'd use my business management degree and get a job that would pay well.
"I'm in this profession because I like it and I want to go as far as I can."
Like his father, the younger Holtz had an undistinguished -- almost nonexistent -- career as a player.
Even before his father's arrival at Notre Dame, Skip Holtz wanted to attend.
Because his high school grades were not up to Notre Dame standards and he lacked foreign language credits, he enrolled for his first two years at Holy Cross Junior College across the highway and then transferred to Notre Dame in the fall of 1984.
His only season on the football team was as a walk-on in his father's first season in 1986.
He had the distinction of playing third-string flanker behind Tim Brown and Reggie Ward.
His only carry in his career was one yard against Purdue. He earned a monogram by being in on 51 plays with the special teams, including one his father and fans won't let him forget.
With Notre Dame down by 30-18 against USC, the Irish defense finally stopped the Trojans near their own 40. On the ensuing punt, Skip Holtz broke through the line, had a clear angle at the ball, but missed and roughed the punter.
The first down revived the Trojans drive. They scored and took what should have been an insurmountable 37-18 lead in the third quarter.
With Brown's heroics, however, the Irish pulled the game out for a 38-37 victory.
"I know dad milks that story for evrything he can get out of it and when I introduce myself to people, they still say, 'Oh, you're the one who roughed the kicker in the Southern Cal game.'
"But I do know as a player what it feels like to make an error in a crucial situation in a critical game.
"I'll be the first one to admit I was not a great athlete, but I wanted to experience it. I was third-team. I was a player on the scout team during practice and got my chance on special teams on game days."
The Holtzes maintain a professional relationship during working hours, but Skip says it has brought them closer together.
"Around the office and on the field, I refer to him as, 'The Man.' I call him Coach Holtz. Off the field, I call him dad.
"He was extremely hard on me when I was a player, but now I understand that he had to be. Until you're older, you don't realize how important your parents are to you."
Though Holtz was a marginal player he has big dreams as a coach.
"I tease him all the time about it," said Skip. "I'll walk into my dad's office, look around at everything he's got in there and tell him I'mmlooking forward to changing the decor on the day when this is mine."