Holtz, Beckman: Fathers made football a family business

Illinois+head+coach+Tim+Beckman+watches+the+game+against+Iowa+at+Memorial+Stadium+on+Nov.+15%2C+2014.%C2%A0Beckman+was+accused+of+mistreatment%C2%A0by+former+Illini+offensive+tackle+Simon+Cvijanovic+on+Twitter+on+Sunday.

Illinois’ head coach Tim Beckman watches the game against Iowa at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 15, 2014. Beckman was accused of mistreatment by former Illini offensive tackle Simon Cvijanovic on Twitter on Sunday.

Like many football players across America playing in bowl games this winter, Skip Holtz is just happy his dad will be on hand to watch.

It will be a rare opportunity when Holtz, the Louisiana Tech head coach, will guide the Bulldogs in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl on Dec. 26 against Illinois with his dad Lou watching.

Lou Holtz, the ESPN commentator, will announce the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl for ESPN on Dec. 24 and fly to Dallas for the Louisiana Tech vs. Illinois game before heading back to the Bristol, Connecticut, studio on Dec. 28.

“It will be a special treat for me because I think he has had the opportunity to go to only about two games in the last 10 years because of ESPN,” Skip said at the Heart of Dallas Bowl press conference last week. “Obviously, Saturday is his busy day.”

Lou has been working for ESPN since 2005 after retiring from a coaching career of more than 40 years. He is well known for leading Notre Dame to the 1988 national championship.

When Skip was born in 1964, Lou was an assistant at Connecticut — where Skip would eventually become head coach 30 years later. The two coached together in the early 1990s at Notre Dame — Lou as the head coach, Skip as the wide receivers coach and eventually the offensive coordinator. The two would also coach together in the early 2000s when Lou took the head job at South Carolina.

But Skip has made a career of his own out of coaching. The Notre Dame alumnus had head coaching jobs at Connecticut, East Carolina and South Florida before taking the Louisiana Tech job in 2013.

Though his dad might be a more familiar face, Skip won’t be the only coach in Dallas on Dec. 26 who is following in his dad’s footsteps. Illini coach Tim Beckman comes from a similarly football-focused background — though on a lesser stage.

Beckman’s father, David, was an assistant coach under Bob Commings at Iowa in the late 1970s and spent six years in the Cleveland Browns front office, followed by two years with the San Diego Chargers front office.

“What a unique thing this is,” Beckman said. “I do not know that there are really two coaches’ sons battling each other in a bowl game, which is kind of neat.”

Beckman, who has been a coach since 1988, likes to joke that he really has 49 years of football experience, thanks to his dad.

“We are creatures of the people we have been around,” Beckman said. “I cannot be blessed more to have a father that took this game and coached this game for the student-athletes. It was kind of a no-brainer. I knew what I wanted to be.”

“It’s in your blood,” added Holtz. “You do it because you love it. You do not do it for any other reason. You do it because you love it and (because of) the relationships you are able to build with the student-athletes.”

Holtz remembered a time when his dad was a coach for the Jets, and he was the ball boy as a seventh grader. The Jets legendary quarterback Joe Namath took him to lunch one day.

“He took me to a Jack in the Box,” Holtz said. “No offense to Zaxby’s.”

It’s those types of opportunities that having a coach for a dad affords a young football player. For Beckman and Holtz, coming from a family of football lovers wasn’t a choice. But they both realize where it has gotten them.

“I am just very blessed to have had these opportunities,” Holtz said. “I know my son — who is on the football team at Texas right now — if you ask him today, he will tell you he is getting into the family business.”

Sean can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter

@sean_hammond.