Ara Parseghian, legendary Notre Dame football coach, succumbs aged 94

The coach who took over a foundering Notre Dame program and restored it to glory with two national championships in 11 seasons has died

Ara Parseghian, who took over a foundering Notre Dame football program and restored it to glory with two national championships in 11 seasons, has died. He was 94.

The University of Notre Dame , Rev John Jenkins, announced in a statement that Parseghian succumbed at home at 1.30 am on Wednesday.

Parseghian had recently returned to his home in Granger, Indiana, after spending more than a week in a nursing care facility in South Bend. He was treated for an infection in his surgically repaired hip, and was still receiving round-the-clock care at home.

Among his many accomplishments, we will recollect him above all as a teacher, leader and mentor who brought out the very best in his players, on and off the field, Jenkins said. He continued to demonstrate that leadership by raising millions of research dollars attempting a remedy for the terrible disease that took the well-being of three of his grandchildren. Whenever we asked for Aras assist at Notre Dame, he was there.

Parseghian and the Irish won titles in 1966 and 1973, but he abruptly retired after the 1974 season at age 51 with a record of 95 -1 7-4. He said he was worn out and ready for a change.

Parseghian, Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy are the only Irish coach-and-fours to result the storied program to more than one national championship. His. 836 winning percentage puts him third on Notre Dames coaching listing behind fellow Hall of Famers Rockne (. 881) and Leahy (. 855 ). Only Rockne( 105, 1918 -3 0) and Lou Holtz( 100, 1986 -9 6) won more total games at Notre Dame.

Parseghians Irish also finished No2 in 1970, No3 in 1964, were ranked in the top 10 in nine days and never finished ranked lower than No14. The Irish never lost back-to-back regular-season games under Parseghian.

Parseghian started his coaching career at Miami University, his alma mater, and then expended eight seasons leading Northwestern. He came to Notre Dame in 1964, with the Irish having gone five seasons without a winning record. Parseghian didnt simply revive Notre Dame football. He attained Opposing Irish fans believe in the program again. He subsequently became a powerful proponent and fundraiser in the fight against rare diseases.

Parseghian resulted Notre Dame to national championships in two different decades, restoring the splendor to what had been college footballs most glamorous franchise in one of its most important era. He began his tenure in South Bend with an impromptu pep rally that depicted 2,000 students to the steps of a residence hall and eventually persuaded Notre Dame to aim its longstanding policy against playing in bowl games.

Parseghians Irish were ranked in the top 10 in nine days and never finished ranked lower than No14. Photo: Anonymous/ AP

Parseghian was so beloved by students that when the weather turned bad, chants of Ara, stop the rain! or Ara, stop the snow cascaded down from the grandstands.

As a student, I enjoyed the thrill of being on campus for Aras last three years as head coach-and-four, including the 1973 championship, and considered firsthand the profound impact that he had on my classmates who played for him, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in a statement. When I returned many years later as athletics director, Ara was unfailingly generous with his time, and his attorney proved to be invaluable.

When Parseghian stepped down, he had established himself as part of the schools Holy Trinity of coach-and-fours with Rockne and Leahy. He went into television run and spent more than a decade calling games on ABC and CBS.

Parseghian was awarded an honorary degree by Notre Dame for his efforts to fight multiple sclerosis, which afflicted his daughter, Karan, and Niemann-Pick type C cancer, which claimed the life of three grandchildren. The Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation raised more than $40 m for research on Niemann-Pick kind C disease.

As you move through life, its not about to become a bright sunshiny day every day. Youre going to have disappointments. But how you manage those letdowns is the important thing for you and everybody thats around you. Thats what I procured from being not only a player, but also a coach, Parseghian said in 2012, when he was honored by the National College Football Awards Association with the Contribution to College Football Award for his work off the field.

He shocked the college football world when he left coaching, and although his name frequently came up for NFL and college jobs, he never returned to the sideline.

When Parseghian took over as coach-and-four in 1964, there was talk about Notre Dames best days being behind it. He brushed away fears that the academic standards were too tough and the Irish couldnt compete with the likes of warm-weather powers Southern California, Alabama and Texas.

The Irish were coming off a 2-7 finish in 1963 under Joe Kuharich when Notre Dame made a change. Parseghian was the first Notre Dame coach in 46 years without ties to the school. After his first game, a 31 -7 victory over Wisconsin, Parseghian had the Irish ranked in the top 10 for the first time in three years. By early November, the Irish were still undefeated and ranked No. 1 for the first time in a decade. He brought the Irish within 93 seconds of a national championship in his first season before losing in the finale to USC.

Hell be most remembered for Notre Dames 10 -1 0 tie-in against second-ranked Michigan State in 1966 the so-called Game of the Century and a 24 -2 3 victory over top-ranked Alabama in the 1973 Sugar Bowl. Both led to national championships and are still talked about decades later.

I dont suppose I was a miracle man, Parseghian said in 2001. Neither were Lou Holtz or Frank Leahy. We all determined ways to win.

Critics said Parseghian couldnt win the big games, pointing to the loss to USC in 1964, that famous tie-in against the Spartan and Notre Dames 0-4-2 record against USC from 1967 -7 2. But he finished with a 95 -1 7-4 record.

Among the superstar players he coached were tight aim Dave Casper, defensive aims Alan Page and Ross Browner, linebacker Jim Lynch, offensive guard Gerry DiNardo and quarterbacks Terry Hanratty and Joe Theismann.

Ive always been in awe of “the mens”, Theismann said in 2004. Ive always felt uncomfortable in his presence. Ive always looked at him in a regal way.

Parseghian, who was born in Akron, Ohio, and served in the Navy, went 36 -3 5-1 at Northwestern and 39 -6- 1 in five seasons at Miami of Ohio. At Miami, Parseghian played under Sid Gillman, renowned for his innovations in video games. With the Cleveland Browns in 1948 -4 9, he played for Paul Brown until an injury aimed his playing career. His first coaching job was as an assistant to Woody Hayes at Miami.

In 2007, Notre Dame unveiled a statue of Parseghian pumping his right fist as he sits atop the shoulders of three players after the win over Texas in the Cotton Bowl. The former coach said he didnt like the idea of a statue until he saw it.

He had a mythic persona on campus, Jenkins said at the unveiling.

Parseghian spent his wintertimes in Florida and the rest of the year in the South Bend area, watching the Irish closely. Coach Brian Kelly said he used to get a weekly notecard during the season from Parseghian with observations.

Hell write a note like he doesnt want to assume anything, you know what I mean? Like hes never given any advice, just talking as a Notre Dame fan and alum. Great to merely get that communications with him, Kelly said before the USC game in 2012.

Parseghian often tailgated before games outside Notre Dame Stadium, and then went home to watch the game on TV. He was worried that people at the stadium might misinterpret his reactions. And he could watch the game without being interrupted.

Parseghian is survived by his wife of 68 years, Katie; son Michael and daughter Kriss.

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