Led Notre Dame to 2 NCAA foot­ball ti­tles

ARA PARSEGHIAN, 1923 - 2017

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Paul Skrbina and Teddy Green­stein re­port­ing from south bend, ind. pskrbina@chicagotri­bune.com

Ara Parseghian, a mem­ber of the Col­lege Foot­ball Hall of Fame who coached Notre Dame and North­west­ern, has died. He was 94.

Parseghian, who was born May 21, 1923, in Akron, Ohio, re­cently spent time in a nurs­ing care fa­cil­ity be­cause of a hip in­fec­tion. He re­turned to his In­di­ana home last week to re­ceive 24-hour care.

Parseghian led the Ir­ish to two na­tional cham­pi­onships (1966, 1973) in 11 sea­sons in South Bend, Ind. Both of those teams were un­beaten. He had a 95-17-4 record at Notre Dame, where he also coached in what some called the “Game of the Cen­tury,” a 10-10 tie between his top-ranked Ir­ish and No. 2 Michi­gan State in 1966.

“We didn’t go for a tie; the game ended in a tie,” Parseghian told the Chicago Tribune in 2016 when re­minded he of­ten was crit­i­cized for let­ting the clock wind down. “Christ, some­body ought to wake up to that.”

Be­fore he ar­rived in South Bend, he spent eight sea­sons as North­west­ern’s coach, post­ing a 36-35-1 record.

Parseghian’s play­ers revered him for his abil­ity to in­spire them — and switch them to their most ben­e­fi­cial po­si­tions on the field.

He moved Paul Flat­ley to a f lanker-end spot, and Flat­ley f lour­ished as North­west­ern’s top re­ceiver be­fore en­joy­ing an eightyear ca­reer in the NFL.

“The Big Ten was three yards and a cloud of dust back then,” Flat­ley said, “but we didn’t have the depth that was needed to com­pete for the whole sea­son. Ara said: ‘We’re go­ing to open up the of­fense and let Tom My­ers throw the foot­ball. Is there any­body who would like to try to catch it?’”

Jay Robert­son, who played cen­ter on North­west­ern’s 1962 team, called Parseghian “a beau­ti­ful foot­ball strate­gist ... who didn’t re­sort to gim­micks.”

“On Mon­day we’d go over the scout­ing re­port and Ara had you sold,” Robert­son said. “His facts were straight and he had a ma­chine-gun de­liv­ery: ‘Boys, they can’t cover this! And if they do, this will be open.’ You’d leave the room and say, ‘I don’t care who we’re play­ing, we’re gonna kick their butt!’

“He was a great com­mu­ni­ca­tor with­out hav­ing to say a lot. His tech­ni­cal knowl­edge was re­ally strong, but in the end his great­est de­sire was to be the team that hit the hard­est.”

Parseghian’s col­lege play­ing days were to begin at the Univer­sity of Akron, but he left school and en­listed in the Navy, where he met Paul Brown, who co-founded and coached the Cleve­land Browns.

Af­ter his stint in the Navy, he played half­back for Mi­ami Univer­sity in Ohio.

The Browns picked Parseghian in the 1947 All-Amer­ica Foot­ball Con­fer­ence draft, while the Steel­ers chose him in the 13th round of that year’s NFL draft.

Parseghian chose to play for the Browns, who won the AAFC cham­pi­onship in both of his sea­sons. His ca­reer ended in the sec­ond game of the 1949 sea­son be­cause of a hip in­jury.

Parseghian’s coach­ing ca­reer be­gan at Mi­ami in 1950, when Woody Hayes hired him to guide the fresh­man team. He took over as head coach the fol­low­ing year af­ter Hayes left to coach Ohio State.

He led the Red­skins to con­fer­ence ti­tles in 1954 and 1955, both un­de­feated sea­sons.

Parseghian be­came coach at North­west­ern the fol­low­ing year, tak­ing over for Lou Sa­ban, a for­mer team­mate of Parseghian’s with the Browns.

He guided the Wild­cats to the top of the AP poll in 1962 af­ter vic­to­ries against Ohio State and Notre Dame. North­west­ern fin­ished 7-2 that year.

Joe Ruk­lick, who starred on North­west­ern’s basketball team, said: “We all be­lieved it was a gift to live in the Ara era. His ex­am­ple was so strong, re­gard­less of sport. He taught us dumb, young guys the mean­ing of ded­i­ca­tion and the love of sac­ri­fice for the cause.”

Parseghian left Evanston for South Bend af­ter the 1963 sea­son and be­came the first Ir­ish coach since Knute Rockne not to have grad­u­ated from Notre Dame.

When Parseghian re­tired in 1974, he was sec­ond be­hind Rockne in ca­reer vic­to­ries at Notre Dame.

“A good coach will make his play­ers see what they can be rather than what they are,” Parseghian once said.

He was elected to the Col­lege Foot­ball Hall of Fame in 1980. He also is a mem­ber of the Mi­ami Univer­sity and In­di­ana Foot­ball halls of fame.

Both Notre Dame and Mi­ami have stat­ues of Parseghian out­side their sta­di­ums. He was 170-58-6 in 24 sea­sons as a col­lege head coach.

Parseghian be­gan his broad­cast­ing ca­reer as a color an­a­lyst for ABC Sports’ re­gional and na­tional col­lege foot­ball broad­casts in 1975, a job he held un­til he be­gan work­ing for CBS in 1982.

In 1994, Parseghian and his son and daugh­ter-in-law founded the Ara Parseghian Med­i­cal Re­search Foun­da­tion with the pur­pose of help­ing to find a cure for Nie­man­nPick dis­ease, a rare disor­der that caused the death of three of Parseghian’s grand­chil­dren.

“The pain of los­ing our three youngest grand­chil­dren is al­most un­bear­able,” he once said. “I think of other grand­par­ents whose grand­child has re­cently been di­ag­nosed with NPC. We will keep up the fight for them and all fam­i­lies af­flicted with this ter­ri­ble dis­ease.”

Parseghian also was in­volved in try­ing to find a cure for mul­ti­ple sclero­sis, which claimed his daugh­ter Karan’s life in 2013.

As­so­ci­ated Press

COL­LEGE FOOT­BALL HALL OF FAMER Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian is car­ried off the field by his play­ers af­ter beat­ing Texas in the 1971 Cot­ton Bowl.

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