Legendary Notre Dame Football Coach Ara Parseghian dead at 94

NOW: Legendary Notre Dame Football Coach Ara Parseghian dead at 94

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Former Notre Dame Football Coach Ara Parseghian has died at the age of 94 after being treated for a hip infection. The university confirming that Parseghian died Wednesday at 1:30 a.m. at his home in Granger.

Parseghian lead the University of Notre Dame’s 1966 and 1973 national championship football teams and is a member of the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame.

“Notre Dame mourns the loss of a legendary football coach, a beloved member of the Notre Dame family and good man - Ara Parseghian,” Father Jenkins said. “Among his many accomplishments, we will remember him above all as a teacher, leader and mentor who brought out the very best in his players, on and off the field.

“He continued to demonstrate that leadership by raising millions of research dollars seeking a cure for the terrible disease that took the lives of three of his grandchildren. Whenever we asked for Ara’s help at Notre Dame, he was there.

“My prayers are with Katie, his family and many friends as we mourn his passing and celebrate a life that was so well lived.”

Athletic director Jack Swarbrick wrote, "It is impossible for me to reflect on my Notre Dame experience without thinking of Ara Parseghian. As a student, I enjoyed the thrill of being on campus for his last three years as coach, including the 1973 National Championship season. And during that time I got to see first-hand the profound the impact on my classmates who played for him. 

"“When I returned many years later as athletics director, Ara was unfailingly generous with his time, and his counsel proved to be invaluable," Swarbrick said.

Arrangements are pending.

The Life of Ara Parseghian

Ara Raoul Parseghian was born May 21, 1923 in Akron, Ohio. He first fell in love with the game of football as a junior in high school.

Soon after graduation Parseghian joined the us navy to help the military's efforts in World War II.

After the war he attended Ohio's Miami University where played on the school's football team as a halfback.

In 1948 Parseghian began his pro career with the Cleveland Browns. He was a halfback and defensive back for two short seasons until his playing career was ended by a hip injury.

Since he could no longer play, Parseghian decided to try his hand at coaching.

After successful head coaching gigs at Miami of Ohio and Northwestern University, Parseghian set his sights on the iconic University of Notre Dame.

In 1964, the "Era of Ara" began.

Notre dame hadn't had a winning season in five straight years and Parseghian was determined to change that.

Parseghian turned things around quickly in his first season as head coach.

The Irish rose to number one in the national polls that year remaining undefeated until the final game of the season against USC.

A loss to the Trojans knocked them out of the top spot but Parseghian's inaugural year earned the National Football Foundation's MacArthur Bowl Trophy.

In 1966 Parseghian found himself at the reigns of another team that would land itself in the history books.

"The '66 team was probably one of the best talented teams we had. We had great balance. And great leadership," Parseghian said.

Led by two-time All-American quarterback Terry Hanratty, the 1966 Fighting Irish marched through the season undefeated with eight straight victories. They shot to the top of the national polls.

"He got us all to a fever pitch to play football, no question," Hanratty said.

The hype mounted as the team approached its contest against Michigan State, a matchup that became known as the "game of the century."

In a controversial call, Parseghian decided to run down the clock to its final seconds without trying to score. The game ended in a tie.

The next week the Irish marched past the USC Trojans to earn the 1966 national title.

"I think teams that are successful have those ingredients. You have to have talent and you have to field leadership and generalship. And that team was characterized by that," Parseghian said.

Parseghian's success continued through the late '60s and early ‘70s.

He earned another national title in 1973 for a total of two national championships in 11 seasons.

In fact Parseghian never had a losing season at Notre Dame. His record was 95-17-4.

He has the third most wins for the Irish behind coaching legends Knute Rockne and Lou Holtz.

Health issues forced Parseghian to quit coaching after the 1974 season. He didn't completely leave the game, though.

He became a broadcaster and called college football games for ABC and CBS.

Parseghian was inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1980.

"I understand the game and I know what goes into your heart as you go into a full season. You fight like the dickens to make the best of every game," said Parseghian.

Although football was part of Parseghian's life from the beginning he dedicated himself to another important mission throughout his lifetime.

Parseghian lost three of his grandchildren to a rare genetic disease called Neimann-Pick Disease Type C.

Determined to find a cure, he and his family created the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation in 1994.

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