A few weeks ago when former Notre Dame assistant Bob Elliot passed away, I wrote that heaven just got itself one heck of a football coach. Unfortunately, it got another resident early Wednesday morning when Ara Parseghain passed away at his home in Granger at the age of 94. The legendary former head coach of the Fighting Irish had fallen ill a couple weeks ago and unfortunately he succumbed to the illness.
Notre Dame president Father Jenkins announced Ara’s passing this morning via a press release. “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.”
As a football coach, Ara Parseghian was a legend. He resurrected Notre Dame football at a time when many questioned whether or not the Irish could be an elite program again. Ara left no doubt there. Ara compiled a record of 95-17 in 11 seasons at Notre Dame and won national championships in both 1966 and 1973. Only Frank Leahy and Knute Rockne won more championships at Notre Dame.
Nine of Parseghian’s 11 teams at Notre Dame finished the season ranked in the top 10. To put that into perspective, Notre Dame has had just 10 top 10 finishes in the 42 seasons since Ara has roamed the sidelines of Notre Dame Stadium.
Following the 1974 season, though, health problems forced Ara to retire from Notre Dame and get out of coaching. He stayed active in sports though as a broadcaster for ABC Sports and was never far from Notre Dame.
NDInsider’s Tom Noie wrote this morning that every game of Brian Kelly’s tenure as the head coach at Notre Dame, Ara would send Kelly a hand written note with words of encouragement even as he became weaker in his old age. Ara was also a fixture at Notre Dame events over the years with his love of the University always apparent in the smile on his face.
Like Bob Elliott, for as good of a coach as Ara Parseghian was, he was a better man. Ara’s charitable work includes creating the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation in 1994 and then teaming with the University in 2016 to form the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Fund. To date, the foundation has raised $45 million in the fight against Niemann-Pick Type C Disease (NPC) – a disease that took the lives of three of Parseghian grandchildren.
Parseghian leaves behind a lasting mark on the University of Notre Dame. They just don’t make them like Ara anymore. The Notre Dame community’s loss is heaven’s gain today though.
We’ll have a full length feature on Ara Parseghian’s Notre Dame career and legacy later today.