Ex-Notre Dame coach dead at 94

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

Ara Parseghian, a Pres­by­te­rian of Ar­me­nian de­scent who be­came an un­likely sav­ior of Notre Dame foot­ball, coach­ing the Fight­ing Ir­ish back to great­ness in the 1960s and 1970s, died early Wed­nes­day morn­ing at his home in Granger, Ind.

He was 94.

The Rev. John Jenkins, pres­i­dent of the Univer­sity of Notre Dame, an­nounced the death in a state­ment.

Parseghian, whose home

was not far from the univer­sity’s cam­pus in South Bend, Ind., had re­cently been un­der­go­ing treat­ment at a care fa­cil­ity for a hip in­fec­tion.

Parseghian ranks with Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy in the pan­theon of Notre Dame foot­ball coaches. In his 11 sea­sons (1964 through 1974), his teams won 95 games, lost 17 and tied 4, for a .836 win­ning per­cent­age. His 1966 and 1973 teams were voted na­tional cham­pi­ons.

When Parseghian ar­rived at Notre Dame, the univer­sity’s foot­ball pro­gram had been in de­cline for years. The col­lapse started in 1956, when Notre Dame won only two games and lost eight. Notre Dame never won more than five games in a sea­son from 1959 to 1963. Twice it won only two games.

Above all, Parseghian wanted to change the play­ers’ emo­tions. “The big­gest prob­lem was to re-in­still the con­fi­dence,” he re­called in a tele­vi­sion in­ter­view years later.

“He told us we were good he’d give each of us a chance to show what we could do in prac­tice,” Jack Snow told The New York Times in 1964. “And he’d be in there with us, do­ing ex­er­cises, snap­ping the ball from cen­ter, show­ing us how to block and run. He made us be­lieve in our­selves.”

In his 11 sea­sons at Notre Dame, Parseghian de­manded the best from his play­ers with­out curs­ing or break­ing clip­boards on the side­line.

But for all his suc­cess, Parseghian was sad­dled for a time with the rep­u­ta­tion of a coach who “couldn’t win the big ones.” That im­age was re­in­forced on Nov. 19, 1966, when un­beaten Notre Dame met un­beaten Michi­gan State at East Lans­ing in the most ea­gerly awaited col­lege game in 20 years.

Notre Dame fell be­hind, 10-0, then ral­lied to tie the score. But late in the game and in its own end of the field, Notre Dame played con­ser­va­tively rather than risk a turnover, and the game ended in a 10-10 tie. Notre Dame was voted the na­tional cham­pion by the wire ser­vices.

Af­ter the 1969 sea­son, Notre Dame ac­cepted an in­vi­ta­tion to meet top-ranked Texas in the Cot­ton Bowl, end­ing four decades in which the Ir­ish did not take part in post­sea­son play. Texas won 21-17.

A year later, af­ter an­other sea­son-spoil­ing loss to South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, Notre Dame re­turned to the Cot­ton Bowl and up­set Texas, 24-11, to snap the Longhorns’ win­ning streak at 30 games. Notre Dame’s next bowl ap­pear­ance was a crush­ing 40-6 loss to Ne­braska in the Or­ange Bowl fol­low­ing the 1972 sea­son.

Parseghian’s year of to­tal re­demp­tion was 1973. The team won all 10 reg­u­lar-sea­son games, then de­feated Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, 24-23. The clincher was a pass from the Ir­ish end zone for a first down that en­abled Notre Dame to run out the clock and si­lenced those who said the coach lacked nerve when it re­ally counted.

The 1974 sea­son was Parseghian’s last, and in some ways his tough­est, even though his team fin­ished 10-2. Sev­eral play­ers had been sus­pended for dis­ci­plinary rea­sons be­fore the sea­son. And in the reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale, Notre Dame suf­fered a crush­ing 55-24 loss to South­ern Cal­i­for­nia af­ter lead­ing 24-0.

Ara Raoul Parseghian was born in Akron, Ohio, on May 21, 1923, to Michael Parseghian, who had fled Tur­key amid the Ar­me­nian geno­cide, and Amelia Bon­neau.

Af­ter high school, Parseghian joined the Navy and played foot­ball at the Great Lakes Naval Train­ing Cen­ter un­der Paul Brown. When he left the Navy, Parseghian en­rolled at Mi­ami Univer­sity in Ohio and earned All-Amer­i­can men­tion as a half­back.

Parseghian joined the Browns af­ter col­lege, but a hip in­jury ended his pro­fes­sional play­ing ca­reer. He re­turned to Mi­ami as the fresh­man coach and be­came the head coach when Woody Hayes left for Ohio State.

Af­ter leav­ing Notre Dame, Parseghian was a color com­men­ta­tor for ABC Sports from 1975 to 1981 and for CBS Sports in 1988.

AP file photo

For­mer Notre Dame foot­ball coach Ara Parseghian, shown in 2016, died Wed­nes­day. Parseghian, who coached the Fight­ing Ir­ish to na­tional cham­pi­onships in 1966 and 1973, was 94.

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