Irish's Holtz to undergo surgery

The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz will have spinal surgery Tuesday and will be sidelined at least three weeks.

Defensive coordinator Bob Davie will coach the No. 24 Irish while Holtz is absent.

''We kind of just all sat there in disbelief,'' said offensive guard Ryan Leahy, describing a team meeting Monday in which Holtz broke the news to his players.

Leahy said Holtz was calm but the team was shocked.

''It's pretty hard to take that,'' Leahy said. ''Half the time you see your coaches as indestructible. But then you realize they're just human.''

The operation will take place at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where Holtz is expected to remain for about a week, said university physician Dr. James Moriarity. The 58-year-old coach could be out three to four weeks.

Holtz was told the condition required an immediate operation to avoid permanent spinal cord damage and possible paralysis.

''There's no reason for the operation not to be totally successful,'' Moriarity said at a news conference.

Moriarity said Holtz has what appears to be a bone growth that has compressed the spinal cord. Doctors believe the growth has been developing for some time and is not the result of an injury.

Surgeons will enlarge the diameter of the spinal canal so the cord will be able to fit.

Moriarity said Holtz has experienced weakness in the muscles of his legs and hands the past four weeks.

''On the morning of the Northwestern game (Sept. 2), he came to us for medical advice after he was unable to run onto the field with his team and climb the stairs to the locker room,'' Moriarity said.

Holtz could miss as many as three games against current Top 25 teams. Notre Dame faces Vanderbilt on Saturday, then plays No. 15 Texas, No. 10 Ohio State and No. 18 Washington.

''In 26 years as a head coach, I've never missed a practice, let alone a game,'' Holtz said. ''I've seen three different doctors, trying to find the least bit of encouragement to delay this, but they all say it has to be done now.''

The loss of Holtz was another lowpoint in an already disappointing season for the Irish. They were upset by Northwestern 17-15 in their opener but recovered to beat Purdue 35-28 Saturday.

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