SOUTH BEND–Iconic Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian passed away on Wednesday August 2nd.
The 94 year old Parseghian, who coached the Fighting Irish from 1964-74, died at his home in Granger. On July 28, The Associated Press reported Parseghian was receiving home treatment after spending time in a nursing care facility for an infection in his surgically repaired hip.
Parseghian was the youngest of three children born to an Armenian father and a French mother in Akron, Ohio. His father, Michael, had come to the United States from Turkey in 1915, fleeing the Armenian Genocide during World War I and settling in part of the country where there was a large Armenian population.
Parseghian played basketball at the local YMCA, but did not play organized football until his junior year at South High School in Akron.
After graduating in 1942, Parseghian enrolled at the University of Akron. American involvement in World War II began after that Attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, however, and he quit school to join the U.S Navy. The Navy transferred him for training to Naval Station Great Lakes near Chicago, where Paul Brown was coaching a service football team.
After his military service, Parseghian enrolled at Miami University in Ohio and played halfback on the school’s football team in 1946 and 1947 under coach Sid Gillman. As with Brown, Parseghian paid close attention to Gillman, a post-war football pioneer who helped popularize deep downfield passes as the T formation came into vogue. He was named an All-Ohio halfback and a Little All-American by sportswriters in 1947.
After being hired away from Northwestern, Parseghian accumulated a 95-17-4 record at Notre Dame, twice leading the Irish to national championships (1966-1973). He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1980.
“Ara was a remarkable man,” current Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. “We come across thousand and thousands of people throughout our life, and most of the time, they come and go, but there are certain people from the moment your meet, you realize they’re truly unique. That’s Ara. His wit, his charm, his patience, his kindness, his foresight and his humility truly define him. I consider myself so lucky that I not only got to know him as a football coach and mentor but as a true friend.
“I’ll forever cherish the hand-written letters of encouragement, wisdom and advice that he’s sent throughout my tenure at Notre Dame. I’ll always keep them close to me.”
A memorial celebration was held at Purcell Pavilion on August 6th, where family members, former players, and colleagues spoke.
Upon retirement from coaching, Parseghian worked as a color commentator for ABC Sports from 1975-81 and as college football analyst for CBS Sports through the 1988 season.
“It is impossible for me to reflect on my Notre Dame experience without thinking of Ara Parseghian,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in a statement. “As a student, I enjoyed the thrill of being on campus for his last three years as head coach, including the 1973 national championship season. And during that time I got to see first-hand the profound impact he had on my classmates who played for him. When I returned many years later to serve as Notre Dame’s athletics director, Ara was among the first people I reached out to for advice. He was unfailingly generous with his time, and his counsel proved to be invaluable. I and this university will forever be indebted to Ara Parseghian, a giant of a man who represented everything that Notre Dame and its football program stand for.”
Parseghian went on to fund the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation in 1994 with his son Michael and daughter-in-law Cindy. The foundation has raised more than $45 million, according to Notre Dame, to raise awareness and research a cure for Niemann-Pick Type C disease, which killed three of Parseghian’s grandchildren.
“Notre Dame mourns the loss of a legendary football coach, a beloved family member of the Notre Dame family and good man—Ara Parseghian,” Jenkins said in a statement. “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 the lives of his three 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.”