SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Lou Holtz has been spending more time than usual in his golf cart. And it has nothing to do with improving his golf game.
The Notre Dame football coach has been genuinely affected by a first-person account of a former Irish player that ran recently in Sports Illustrated, alleging widespread steroid use among the team's players.
"Usually he's a very hands-on type of coach," tight end Derek Brown said. "This time, he spends a lot of time driving around in his golf cart thinking."
Holtz and Notre Dame denied the allegations made in the magazine. But he admits it has had an effect on preparation, particularly on offense, as the top-ranked Fighting Irish prepare to host No. 4 Michigan on Saturday night.
"This has been a very difficult time," he said. "I think that this is the one time that it's affected my preparation, because of the amount of time and concentration and everything else."
Lapses in concentration spilled over onto the field, until recently.
"For a while there, everything was in disarray," Brown said. "People were worrying about what was going to happen with coach, what was going to happen to us. When you come to Notre Dame, you've kind of got to expect things like that to happen. We could concentrate, but we didn't have that total concentration throughout the whole practice. I think we're starting to get a lot more focused for a longer period of time now than we had been."
Holtz, noted for downplaying his team, insists he was sincere this time when he said the Irish aren't the No. 1 team, that he didn't vote them into the top 15 in the UPI coaches' poll. Holtz's concerns are two new starters in the offensive line due to injury, three new players in the secondary and, foremost, handing the reins over to highly touted sophomore quarterback Rick Mirer, who threw only 30 passes as a freshman playing behind Tony Rice.
"He probably didn't vote for us to be in the top 15," Brown said. "Polls are polls, they're going to take care of themselves. It really doesn't matter who is No. 1 right now just as long as hopefully we'll be No. 1 at the end of the season. That's what really counts, when it's all said and done."