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After leading Notre Dame to the national football championship in 1988, coach Lou Holtz got some advice from Digger Phelps.

"He told me on several occasions that I was foolish to continue to coach after we won the national championship," Holtz said. "He said, `Man, you ought to retire and get on to other things in your life."'Holtz told reporters that story to make a point about Phelps' decision Monday to resign as the school's basketball coach.

"I think there are a lot of things Digger wanted to do with his life," Holtz said Wednesday before taking part in the Heritage Classic pro-am golf tournament. "Here's a guy who's been there 20 years. You're going to have to retire sooner or later. He chose when.

"If you (the school) were going to make a change, you'd do it before the signing date. . . . I'm perfectly convinced that it was Digger's decision completely."

Holtz also said nothing should be read into the fact Phelps' two immediate bosses did not attend his news conference announcing his retirement.

"I would think . . . they would have been there had the schedule been such," Holtz said. "I think when Digger makes a decision to go, it's not necessary to be there."

Holtz said he was attending an alumni function in Baltimore and could not attend Phelps' announcement. But Holtz was quick to point out he wasn't missing any time with his team to play golf.

The Fighting Irish are in the midst of spring practice, but Holtz gave them Wednesday off. He said he plans to return to South Bend, Ind., on Thursday as he tries to put together his 1991 team, which will be minus Raghib "Rocket" Ismail and defensive back Todd Lyght.

Both are expected to be picked early in the first round of the NFL draft Sunday.

"I would imagine the Rocket would be the first player picked," Holtz said, "and all indications are Todd Lyght will go second or third.

"We may have as many as three or four players go in the first round. We're going to have a lot of wealthy athletes. But it doesn't look good as a coach to lose that many people and not win the national championship."

While he is for a national championship game, Holtz said he was against a playoff because it would put more strain on the players' academic work.

Holtz also said he would like to see the NFL fund eight academies which athletes hoping to play professional football, baseball or basketball could attend.

The academies would play each other and would have very limited academic requirements under Holtz's plan.

"What you do at the academies is you learn how to do a TV interviews, write a check and pick an agent," he said. "Other than that, you lift weights and you get ready to play.

"At the end of the year the pros say, `OK, you're making progress. You have a chance. You can come back next year.' Or they say, `No, you don't have the athletic talent (and) you're not going to make it. Now get on with your life."'

In a related matter, Holtz said once more he wasn't interested in leaving Notre Dame to coach in the National Football League.