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Michael Rothstein | The Journal Gazette
Lou Holtz signs autographs Tuesday at a fundraiser for Women’s Care Center.

Holtz has great expectations for Irish

Former coach sees team going 11-1 this season

He went through all the staples of Lou Holtz speeches: talking about caring, the requisite jokes and self-deprecating humor and even his newspaper trick where he tears up a newspaper and then magically puts it back together.

In the end, though, in front of about 400 people at the Women’s Care Center fundraising dinner at Grand Wayne Center on Tuesday, the former Notre Dame football coach and current ESPN analyst got around to talking football.

He thinks Notre Dame will “be fine” in 2009 and finish 11-1 and in the Top 10. A national title, though? Not quite.

“I think Florida is going to be in a class by themselves,” Holtz said. “Their top 22 on defense alone return. They got Tim Tebow, who is probably as great a leader as there is in college football. They also have almost all their offensive team coming back.

“Oklahoma should be good with Sam Bradford. I think Texas is going to be good with Colt McCoy. I think Penn State will be the best in the Big Ten and Ohio State No. 2. I think Iowa will be No. 3. I don’t think there will be anybody in the Big East that will challenge, and I don’t think there’ll be anybody in the ACC that will challenge for the national championship. I do believe the winner of Texas and Oklahoma and Florida will play for the championship.”

Holtz was in town as the keynote speaker for the fifth anniversary of Women’s Care Center, an organization that helps new mothers and mothers-to-be, in Fort Wayne.

It is an organization started in South Bend by a former Notre Dame professor almost a quarter-century ago and one Holtz became involved with while he was Notre Dame’s head coach.

Due in part to the presence of Holtz and that of Bishop John M. D’Arcy, head of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, the Women’s Care Center raised $66,000 through a live fundraising auction conducted by D’Arcy – including a $1,000 donation from Holtz.

Added to that is money from a silent auction that was not tabulated Tuesday evening.

“It’s a great cause,” Holtz said. “Make no mistake about it. What they’ve done in Fort Wayne is nothing short of spectacular. When you have 4,000 women come through, and I think they have 46,000 visits, that’s impressive for five years.

“So I’m just glad to be able to be here and hopefully contribute to the evening.”