Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Ara Parseghian…College Football Loses a Coaching Giant and Cotton Bowl Hall of Famer

Photo By: Melissa Macatee/CBAA
2007 Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame

When a discussion ensues about the greatest games in Cotton Bowl history, the debate often leads to Texas vs. Notre Dame in 1970 and 1971. Both games live in college football and Classic lore. National Championships were on the line and legends were born, but at the epicenter of these extraordinary games were two absolute giants… Darrell Royal and Ara Parseghian.

Both brought out the best in their players, but beyond that, they came to personify the very best in Longhorn or Fighting Irish football. They followed greats like Dana X. Bible and Knute Rockne, but they left their own indelible mark both on the off the football field leaving a lasting legacy that will be honored and cherished in perpetuity by all college football fans alike.

We lost Royal in 2012, and Parseghian died Wednesday at his home in Granger, Indiana, where he lived with Katie Parseghian, his wife of 68 years. He was 94.

Parseghian walked away from coaching at the age of 51 after winning two national championships, but 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.

"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," Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins said in statement. "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."

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 two 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 (95).

After stepping down, Parseghian went into television and spent more than a decade calling games on ABC and CBS. He already had been active in the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

He received an honorary doctorate from Notre Dame in 1997. In 1980, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. In 2007, Parseghian was inducted into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame, the same year that Notre Dame unveiled a statue of him outside Notre Dame Stadium.
On the field, a tie was probably his most famous game.
Parseghian, who was born in Akron, Ohio, and served in the Navy, went 36-35-1 at Northwestern, including 4-0 against Notre Dame, and 39-6-1 in five seasons at Miami of Ohio. At Miami, Parseghian played under the innovative Sid Gillman. With the Cleveland Browns in 1948-49, he played for Paul Brown until an injury ended his playing career. His first coaching job was as an assistant to Woody Hayes at Miami.

Parseghian is survived by wife Katie, son Michael and daughter Kristan.

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