by Scott Mosley
I recently had the privilege of accompanying Jon Headlee to the 4th Annual Becker’s Hospital Review Meeting in Chicago. I got to see a few old friends and left the three-day meeting with some strong impressions reinforced.
I was reminded that Lou Holtz is every bit as entertaining of a speaker as he was when I had occasion to hear him during our mutual time in Arkansas. His Friday morning keynote message was simple and on-point. Attitude trumps talent in the game of life. Holtz – a master of motivation – should know.
In his address, Holtz mentioned the 1978 Orange Bowl at which the Arkansas Razorbacks entered as overwhelming underdogs to the #2 ranked Oklahoma Sooners, coached by Barry Switzer – a Crossett, Arkansas boy. As an Arkansas native, myself, I remember the game well.
The Sooners had a national title in their grasp and were 24-point favorites since just prior to the game Holtz had to suspend three star players for team rule violations. Among them was Ben Cowins, the Razorback’s much-heralded star running back. Arkansas was given little chance of victory.
Although the suspended players and fans protested, Holtz refused to back down and the suspensions stood. The #1 Texas Longhorns had lost earlier on New Year’s Day, and everyone knew for certain that Oklahoma would leave the game as national champions. Everyone but Holtz, that is, and a second string running back by the name of Roland Sales. Sales was handed the unenviable and overwhelming assignment of filling in for the suspended Cowins.
Well, the outcome is history. Roland Sales caught four passes for 52 yards and two touchdowns and carried the ball 22 times for 205 yards, more than half his total for the entire preceding season. His performance set an Orange Bowl record that stood for 20 years until Ahman Green carried for 206 yards in 1998. Under Holtz’ leadership, Arkansas defeated Oklahoma 31-6 in one of the best ballgames I’ve ever seen.
Arkansas finished #3 that year, behind Notre Dame and Alabama. But, I don’t think Holtz saw it that way. Arkansas outplayed Oklahoma in one of the most unlikely exhibitions of attitude and spirit I ever hope to see.
Yes, it’s only football. But I think it’s impossible not to draw some parallels. It’s good for us to be reminded of the true power in leadership, teamwork and motivation. Holtz would call it the “power of believing.” Whatever you call it, it’s a vital ingredient in healthcare’s recipe for success.
To view the Keynote presentation Winning Every Day: A Game Plan For Success by Coach Lou Holtz, click here.