One of the biggest surprises of the 2023 college football season occurred on Saturday when Ohio State head coach Ryan Day launched into a pro-wrestling-style promo in the moments following his team’s 17-14 win over Notre Dame.
Day’s target? 86-year-old Lou Holtz, who the Buckeyes head coach believed disrespected him and his team with comments he made on The Pat McAfee Show a day earlier.
“I’d like to know where Lou Holtz is now,” the typically mild-mannered Day shouted during his postgame interview on the NBC broadcast of the game. “What he said about our team, what he said about our team, I cannot believe. This is a tough team right here. We’re proud to be from Ohio. And it’s always been Ohio against the world. It’ll continue to be Ohio against the world.”
"I'D LIKE TO KNOW WHERE LOU HOLTZ IS NOW. WHAT HE SAID ABOUT OUR TEAM, WHAT HE SAID ABOUT OUR TEAM, I CANNOT BELIEVE. THIS IS A TOUGH TEAM RIGHT HERE. WE'RE PROUD TO BE FROM OHIO. AND IT'S ALWAYS BEEN OHIO AGAINST THE WORLD. IT'LL CONTINUE TO BE OHIO AGAINST THE WORLD." pic.twitter.com/6xUN3R2WOb
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) September 24, 2023
Appearing on Dan Dakich’s Don’t @ Me Outkick YouTube show on Tuesday, Holtz discussed Day’s rant. And while the former Notre Dame head coach said he stood by the comments, he said he did apologize to Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman for the spot he put him in.
“I called Coach Freeman yesterday and apologized because I put him in a bad position, maybe,” Holtz told Dakich. “I don’t feel bad about saying it because I believe it. And Notre Dame was the better football team… if I was coaching I would’ve said it. And I would’ve watched their tape and said, ‘I think you’re better. I think you’re more physical. I think you’re more talented. Coach Day doesn’t believe so. Go prove him wrong and prove me right.’ But when I say something and I can’t control the outcome of the game, that’s unfair to Coach Freeman.”
Asked about his reaction to Day’s rant, the College Football Hall of Famer replied with a series of backhanded compliments.
“That’s his choice. And I can understand why he did it,” Holtz said. “He doesn’t want to talk about Michigan, 0-2 [the last two seasons]. He doesn’t want to talk about the big game coming up against Penn State and against Michigan again. He’s a great coach. He’s done a tremendous job. He’s a great offensive mind.
“Ohio State’s a good football team, I don’t think they’re a great football team. He can go after me all he wants, but I remember when we were playing Miami and there was a big hullabaloo and sometimes you say things out of emotions… I thought Notre Dame was the better football team and more physical and I’m sorry if Coach Day was offended by it.”
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 24, 2023
In a sports news cycle where bulletin board material is easily available, it’s unclear why Holtz’s comments—which came as he was being interviewed by a Holtz impersonator—struck such a chord with Day.
One could theorize that it was simply the boiling point for Day, who has received criticism from Ohio State fans for his track record—or lack thereof—in big games. Another theory would be that Day was especially upset by the comments from Holtz, whose grandson was a grad assistant at Ohio State from 2017-2019 and who was a mentor of Day’s former boss, Urban Meyer.
Regardless of the true origin of the rift, it’s hard to imagine that Holtz bringing up Day’s record against Michigan and repeatedly doubling down on his comments will do much to squash the beef. As college football continues into its pro wrestling era, Day vs. Holtz had emerged as the sport’s unlikeliest blood feud.