South Bend Stories: Notre Dame coach Naimoli?
It's no surprise how many prominent Notre Dame alums there are in the Tampa Bay area, but all of them seem to have close personal ties to USF coach Skip Holtz, one way or another. So upon seeing former Devil Rays managing partner Vince Naimoli at USF's kickoff dinner, we had to follow up with a phone call to the 1959 Notre Dame graduate, a regular down in front when the Fighting Irish visit the Sun Dome.
And of course, Naimoli knows the Holtz family well -- he attended Skip and Jennifer's wedding in 1992, and said he's come to make USF his second-favorite college, that is, after his alma mater.
"I've got N.D. as No. 1 and USF as No. 2," said Naimoli, who gets to a few games in South Bend each year. "I was watching a game last year with Lou Nanni, and he said 'You're a Notre Dame fan first, and a USF fan second.'"
Naimoli said he hopes to attend USF's home game against Louisville this year -- as with Skip Holtz, he's good friends with Cards head coach Charlie Strong from his four seasons as a Notre Dame assistant. Naimoli has been very generous to Notre Dame, including a $5 million donation toward the renovation of the Joyce Center in 2006, and he said his favorite Holtz memory at Notre Dame came when he was allowed to be an honorary coach in the spring game during Lou Holtz's years in South Bend.
"(Current USF QBs coach Peter Vaas) was my assistant, and Lou was sitting in the press box," Naimoli said. "Rocket (Raghib Ismail) had caught a pass to the 5-yard line, and 18 running plays later, we scored. So Lou calls down and says to Peter, 'Who's calling plays? You or Vince?' Peter says it's Vince, so he says 'Put him on.' Lou says to me 'Have you ever heard of the forward pass?' and I said to him 'Lou, I sit in the stands every week and you never throw the ball.'"