Less than a week after former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz was named as the guest speaker for the Cathedral High School 90th anniversary gala in October, alumni at the El Paso school who organized the event have rescinded his invitation.
The gala dinner and dance raises money for scholarships for students at the boys Catholic high school.
Holtz recently made controversial comments about immigration, and officials received complaints about his invitation. Cathedral High School, affectionately nicknamed “La Cate,” has students from both sides of the border and includes among its alumni prominent El Paso leaders.
In an email to the El Paso Times Wednesday, David Saucedo, the president of the Council of Presidents at Cathedral High School, confirmed that Holtz would no longer attend. A news conference is scheduled in the coming days. No replacement was announced.
Holtz, 79, is a sought-after motivational speaker who sparked controversy after endorsing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and describing immigration as an “invasion” and saying that immigrants needed to assimilate better.
“I don’t want to speak your language, I don’t want to celebrate your holidays, I sure as hell don’t want to cheer for your soccer team,” Holtz said at a luncheon during the Republican National Convention in July. Holtz later said that he wished he hadn’t made the comment.
Several of the critics applauded the Cathedral alumni association for dropping the Holtz invitation.
“The Cathedral alumni association did the right and courageous thing,” said Luis Villalobos, a 1963 Cathedral graduate who wrote a letter to the editor in the Times critical of the Holtz invitation. “Public figures have to know, even during this election time, their words have consequences. They can speak before a very enthusiastic crowd, but they can’t say things that are insulting to any group, whether it be a minority group, women or whatever group they are railing against.”
Holtz is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and led Notre Dame to a national championship in 1988. He is also a former college football analyst with ESPN.
In 2002, Holtz was the guest speaker at the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Gala at the civic center.
Holtz was initially selected for the Cathedral anniversary gala because of his support for education and the ties between El Paso and Notre Dame, said Abel Rodriguez, communications director for the Cathedral High School Alumni Association.
“It is important for us to understand that we are bringing him here to celebrate education,” Rodriguez said last week. “His comments were his comments and later on he did repeal some of what he said. The fact of the matter is that the connection between Notre Dame and El Paso is huge.”
Brother Nick Gonzalez, the school president, said last week that perhaps Holtz could learn from his visit to Cathedral, a school that has students from various economic backgrounds from both El Paso and Juárez. “We don’t have walls at Cathedral,” Gonzalez said.
“One of the wonderful things (is) that Cathedral is proof to the country that it works,” Gonzalez said. “We are very proud that from 1925 on, Cathedral has been an international school. A portion of our students came from Ciudad Juárez, from Las Cruces. We have always been a melting pot of the military, of Anglos, of Latinos, of kids from the barrio, of kids from the Upper West Side, Rim Road and from Park Street.”
USA TODAY High School Sports contributed to this story