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College Football: The Great Uniter

September 3, 2021

By Lou Holtz

In times of great turmoil and strife and seasons of division, college football has been there to bring our Nation together. Last fall, when faced with an international pandemic and calls for a canceled season, with the aid of a sitting U.S. president and some fearless college athletes and their parents, a grassroots voice turned into a battle cry, and a season was resurrected.

Our Nation felt a unity it had not known for months. Couched within the national landscape of a fractured electorate and in an atmosphere of fear and dread from a virus that crippled the way we lived, college football rallied to become a symbol for what makes us exceptional as a Nation. We don’t shrink back, we don’t give up, and when faced with great adversity, we stand and fight. We refuse to let any enemy, seen or unseen, stop us from being who we are. Week after week, game after game, and practice after practice, college football found a way to win. Great adversity was met with extraordinary courage and resolve, reminding us once again that there is nothing we cannot accomplish when we are united and focused on a common goal.

One of my proudest moments as a coach, and as an American, came in the fall of 2001. I was the head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks on 911 when the twin towers were struck, and our Nation fell under attack. I remember the shock and pain of watching thousands of lives lost, but I also remember the pride I felt when I watched heroes emerge from the rubble and a country unite. I remember getting a call just a week later telling me that our game would be the first game as college football resumed on September 20, 2001. I remember the chills I had standing on that field with more than 200 players and staff from both teams, holding one of the largest American Flags I had ever seen as the National Anthem played in front of an audience of millions. America let out a collective sigh of relief and felt a different kind of pride that Thursday evening as souls from coast to coast felt what they had not felt in 2 weeks — safety and normalcy — united in and feeling like everything was going to be OK. College football did that.

Today, we stand at the threshold of another college football season, and once again, this time-honored tradition serves as a reminder that what we have in common is every bit as strong as what makes us different. The boys of fall will once again take center stage, and our Nation will come together at a time when we desperately need to come together. We will don school colors, hang up those school flags, and cheer on our favorite teams. We will tailgate with friends and family of varying political bents. When needed most, we will take a collective step back from the craziness that awaits the rest of the week and simply enjoy the pageantry, rivalry, and thrilling competition that we have come to love. It’s time to be a kid again, and it’s time to come together and appreciate the common humanity found in a love for a simple game.

I know of no greater national tradition that does this better than the one that takes place every weekend, in every state, every fall — the passion and the pride that is college football. Let’s flip that coin, and let the games begin.

Lou Holtz serves as Chairman, Center for 1776 for the America First Policy Institute (AFPI).