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Holiday accepts demotion with class

Andrew Soukup | Friday, October 10, 2003

Carlyle Holiday doesn’t listen to the snide remarks people make after they walk by, doesn’t read the newspapers that say he can’t play and doesn’t bother looking over e-mails he receives that say he has no business playing college football.

But three weeks ago, Holiday did hear something he would never forget.

With the Irish trailing by a touchdown to Michigan State, Holiday didn’t see Michigan State’s Greg Taplin standing between him and his receiver. So Holiday fired a pass directly into Taplin’s arms, an interception that was returned 40 yards for the game’s back-breaking touchdown.

Holiday snapped off his chinstrap in disgust and started trudging toward the sideline. That’s when he heard it.

Not loud at first, but it started in each corner of Notre Dame Stadium and crescendoed to the point where the sound reverberated through Holiday’s helmet.


“That,” Holiday said weeks later of an image bound to give him nightmares, “was pretty tough not to hear.”

In Holiday’s 24 games as the starting Notre Dame quarterback, he knew he had to develop elephant skin – and not just to handle the crushing hits he would receive courtesy of a porous offensive line. He watched how Notre Dame fans ruthlessly pummeled Matt LoVecchio two seasons ago, begging Irish coaches to install Holiday at quarterback. He heard those same fans first praise him, then criticize him, then boo him and beg for true freshman Brady Quinn to start over Holiday.

Two weeks ago, Notre Dame coaches apparently grew tired of trying to cram the square peg into the round hole and dumped Holiday, a 24-game starter whose greatest asset was always his legs and never his arm, in favor of Quinn. The Irish coaching staff has given every indication that Quinn will start Saturday against Pittsburgh and probably the rest of the season.

That means Holiday is relegated to spot duty on the field, like taking snaps at wide receiver, while he prepares himself to go back in and face the boos if Quinn gets injured.

Holiday could have sulked. He could have moped. He could have blasted the fans. He could have ignored reporters. He could have called out his teammates.

But he didn’t.

When he first heard about a T-shirt that read, “The Holiday is Over,” he smiled it away. When he got bombarded week after week with questions about his ability, he openly discussed his flaws. When Notre Dame got embarrassed by Michigan and beaten by Michigan State thanks largely in part to an offense that had as much life as Venus, Holiday shouldered all the blame.

And never once did he fire a salvo back.

“That’s something you have to deal with,” he shrugged. “For you to start to hit back and let your anger show, that sticks out more than any other thing.”

Publicly, Holiday hid his disappointment and frustration. Privately, you couldn’t blame him if he didn’t want to leave his room or go to class. Why not? He’d just be walking by or sitting with fellow students who lambasted him Saturday after Saturday.

So Holiday took it all in stride, laughing away questions that wound him to the core, taking too much blame even though the rest of his offense wasn’t clicking, trying to ignore the jeers he received in his own stadium. And during the week Holiday was replaced as the starting quarterback – a decision coaches appeared to make during the week but didn’t reveal until game time – the senior was the consummate team player by not letting on that his days as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback were likely over.

Now, Holiday walks unmolested by the throngs of media members who once clamored for a sound bite from him but now only want to hear from Notre Dame’s newest golden boy. So far, he says he hasn’t given Quinn any advice on how to handle all the off-the-field pressure of being Notre Dame’s starter, which he knows makes lining up under center against Michigan seem appealing in comparison. “That’s something he has to experience for himself,” the deposed starter said.

But maybe Holiday should talk to Quinn. He might have known he was walking into the lion’s den two years ago when he was named the starter, but he certainly didn’t think he’d get eaten to pieces if he didn’t succeed.

Depending on how Quinn’s next four years at Notre Dame turn out, the day he was named starter could be one of the best days of the freshman’s life.

But as Holiday knows, it could also be one of the worst.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer. Contact Andrew Soukup at asoukup@ nd.edu.