Irish coach Parseghian dies.
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.
Ara Parseghian reached the pinnacle of his profession at Notre Dame and endured the most painful personal losses as a father and grandfather.
He walked away from coaching at the age of 51 after winning two national championships and a record of 95-17-4, but he never really left the Fighting Irish. He built a legacy through philanthropy that he hoped would be far more meaningful than any of his many victories.
Parseghian died Wednesday at his home in Granger, Ind., where he lived with Katie Parseghian, his wife of 68 years. He was 94.
Parseghian had recently returned home after spending more than a week in a nursing care facility in South Bend, Ind. He was treated for an infection in his surgically repaired hip, and was still receiving round-the-clock care at home.
Despite his 95 career wins, the most memorable game he ever coached was probably one of those four ties.
In a matchup dubbed the Game of the Century, No. 1 Notre Dame tied No. 2 Michigan State 10-10 in 1966 and went on to win the national title. Decades later, Parseghian would still bristle over suggestions he was too conservative at the end of the game. He would joke with his players that the result made them famous forever.
“Ara always said I tied the game just to keep you guys name in the paper all these years,” said Terry Hanratty, Notre Dame’s quarterback in that game. “Think about it: Had somebody won, five years later nobody would have remembered it.”
In 1980, Parseghian was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins will preside over a mass for Parseghian on Sunday at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of Notre Dame. A public memorial service will be held later at the Joyce Center.
Parseghian took over at Notre Dame in 1964 when the Fighting Irish were down. They hadn’t had a winning season in five years and had gone 2-7 in 1963. He quickly restored the Golden Dome’s luster and led the Irish to national titles in 1966 and 1973. He abruptly retired after the 1974 season, saying he was worn out and ready for a change. Despite offers from other colleges and NFL teams, he never returned to coaching.
His .836 winning percentage puts him third on Notre Dame’s coaching list behind fellow College Football Hall of Famers Knute Rockne (.881) and Frank Leahy (.855). At Notre Dame, they are considered the “Holy Trinity” of coaches. Only Rockne (105, 1918-30) and Lou Holtz (100, 1986-96) won more total games at Notre Dame than Parseghian.
“When you find any successful coach, there’s always a portion of the players who didn’t like him. From the top All-American to the guy who never got to see the field, everybody loved Ara,” Hanratty said. “That’s a really great human being.”
Parseghian started his coaching career at Miami University, his alma mater, and then spent eight seasons leading Northwestern.
Parseghian didn’t just revive Notre Dame football. He made Fighting Irish fans believe in the program again. He began his tenure in South Bend with an impromptu pep rally that drew 2,000 students to the steps of a residence hall and eventually persuaded Notre Dame to end its longstanding policy against playing in bowl games.
In 1994, his family was hit with devastating news. Three of his son Mike’s children were found to have Niemann-Pick disease type C. Parseghian helped create the Ara Parseghian Medical Foundation in response.
The Parseghians lost three grandchildren between the ages of 9 and 16 to Niemann-Pick disease from 1997-2005. The foundation has raised more than $45 million for research.
In 2014, Parseghian’s daughter, Karan Burke, died at 61.
Parseghian is survived by wife Katie, son Michael and daughter Kristan.
Notre Dame players give coach Ara Parseghian a ride after the Irish defeated Alabama 24-23 in the Sugar Bowl to win the 1973 national championship.