No doubt about it, Ara Parseghian saved Notre Dame football. Oh, we all know about Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy and those monsters of the coaching world back in football’s early days. But, the Notre Dame football program had slipped into decline before they hired Ara.
Sure, Notre Dame has always been a media favorite and maybe Quarterback John Huarte didn’t deserve the Heisman Trophy back in 1964. Or, maybe he did, I don’t know I was 5 years old that season and wasn’t watching the game yet. Ara’s first season at Notre Dame was a huge success with the Heisman winner and a 9-1 record.
Ara Parseghian took over for Hugh Devore, who only coached one season which was an ugly 2-7 disaster. Devore had replaced Joe Kuharich who had been a mistake from the beginning and never had a winning season at Notre Dame.
The legendary Frank Leahy had been gone for 10 years and Notre Dame had slipped into oblivion.
Two years after his first 9-1 season and a Heisman winner, Ara’s Fighting Irish won the national title in 1966 with a 9-0-1 record. They actually split the title with Michigan State after their famous Game of the Century game.
However, the famous 10-10 tie with Michigan State brought a great amount of national heat on Ara Parseghian because they ran the clock out without attempting to win the game. He seemed satisfied with the tie game and that didn’t sit well with many people. Of course, Notre Dame doesn’t sit well with many people in the first place and that’s another excuse to hate them for those folks.
Ara led Notre Dame to it’s first bowl game in 50 years when they traveled to Dallas to take on top ranked Texas in the Cotton Bowl. They lost, but they beat Texas in a rematch to snap the Longhorns 30 game win streak.
Ara’s Fighting Irish beat Alabama in the 1973 Sugar Bowl to win his second national title.
Parseghian coached the Irish one more season and led them to a 10-2 record before he abruptly retired from football. He said at the time that he was ‘physically exhausted and emotionally drained’. I can truly believe that with the pressure that is on these coaches to win.
Parseghian was only 51 at the time and we all missed out because he had a lot of good years left in him.
Miami of Ohio has always been known as the Cradle of Coaches because of all of the great coaches that started off there such as Ara, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler and so many others. Parseghian posted an impressive 39-6-1 record at Miami with his last season an unbeaten 9-0, before he was hired by Northwestern. Coaching the Wildcats is difficult even for a legend like Parseghian and his second year
in Evanston was an embarrassing season with not a single win. In 8 seasons at Northwestern, his overall record was 36-35-1.
After taking the Notre Dame job, the Irish rebounded to their glory days under Rockne and Leahy and they were 95-17-4 under Parseghian in the ‘Era of Ara’.
After stepping down at Notre Dame, Ara joined legendary broadcaster Keith Jackson to be the color commentator for most of the big games with ABC.
Ara Parseghian passed away today, August 2nd 2017 at the age of 94.
Many former Notre Dame players and fans will be sad. I am sad.
Ara Parseghian made Notre Dame great in my childhood and I have never forgotten that.