Recognizing a man he described as “one of the greatest coaches in American history,” President Trump bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom upon former college football coach Lou Holtz during a ceremony Thursday at the Oval Office.

The nation’s highest civilian honor, the medal is awarded by the president “to individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” according to the White House website.

“He’s really a life teacher,” Trump said of Holtz, who led Notre Dame to an undefeated season and the national championship in 1988 and compiled a 249-132-7 record in 33 seasons as an NCAA head coach at William & Mary, North Carolina State, Arkansas, Minnesota, Notre Dame and South Carolina.

Holtz has been a longtime admirer of Trump who endorsed his first run for president in 2016, saying at the time it was because “I’ve played his golf course [and] I’ve stayed in his hotel” and that Trump “does nothing but go first class in everything.” Holtz also spoke on Trump’s behalf at both the 2016 and 2020 Republican National Conventions. His comments blasting people protesting police brutality at this year’s convention drew harsh criticism from many of his former players. The Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, distanced the Catholic school from Holtz after his comment that Democratic candidate Joe Biden was a Catholic “in name only.”

“I’m even prouder to receive it from President Donald Trump,” Holtz said Thursday. “Greatest president in my lifetime.”

Both Trump and Holtz have dealt with cases of covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Trump has consistently played down the pandemic even though he spent nearly three days receiving treatment for covid-19 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in October. Holtz, who is 83, revealed that he tested positive for coronavirus exactly two weeks before Thursday’s ceremony, telling a South Carolina television station that he didn’t “have a lot of energy right now.”

Even so, and even though dozens of White House aides — including the chief of staff, the national security adviser and the press secretary — have contracted the virus, few were wearing masks during Thursday’s ceremony.

The White House will hold at least 25 indoor holiday parties this month, ignoring warnings from the Trump administration’s own public health professionals to avoid congregating in large group settings in an attempt to tamp down the spread of the coronavirus. The United States reported a record number of new coronavirus cases on Wednesday along with a record number of covid-19 deaths and patients, with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield warning that the next three months are “going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.”