Ara Parseghian, the architect behind Notre Dame’s re-emergence as a national power in the 1960’s and 1970’s, passed away overnight Wednesday morning in his sleep at the age of 94, per The Associated Press.
Parseghian had recently been fighting complications from a hip infection.
Parseghian, an Akron, Ohio native, is often associated with Northwestern and Notre Dame, but his storied 24-year career began at his alma mater Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
Parseghian enrolled at Miami University and joined the football team as a halfback after a brief stint in the United States Navy during World War II. He earned letters in football, basketball and baseball. He received All-Ohio honors in 1946 and 1947 for football and also earned All-America recognition in 1947.
Parseghian would go on to be selected by both the Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL) and the Cleveland Browns (AAFC) in their respective 1947 drafts. Over his two-year career, Parseghian collected 166 yards rushing and three total touchdown as a backup halfback/defensive back on the Browns team led by quarterback Otto Graham and head coach Paul Brown, a fellow Miami alum. The Browns won AAFC titles in both of his professional seasons. Parseghian retired in 1949 after suffering a serious hip injury.
Parseghian’s coaching career began at his alma mater Miami University as coach of the freshman team in 1950, under Woody Hayes. Parseghian would take the reins of the program after Hayes departed for the Ohio State job in 1951, compiling a 39-6-1 record and two undefeated conference championships (1954 and 1955) in the process.
Parseghian is often credited with saving the Northwestern football program from obscurity, as he propelled the Wildcats to a 36-35-1 record in his seven years in Evanston. Under his guidance, Northwestern became a national title contender, coming within three games of a national title in 1959 and within two games in 1962, an inconceivable notion when Parseghian took the job after the winless 1956 campaign.
Parseghian came to be a household name after being hired by Notre Dame in 1963, leading the Fighting Irish to two national titles (1962 and 1973) during his tenure and collecting the third-most wins in program history behind Knute Rockne (105) and Frank Leahy (100) with a 95-17-4 record. Parseghian revolutionized the coaching postion in his tenurte at Notre Dame, taking advantage of rule changes and changing the offense to be more pass-friendly in a run-dominant era. Under Parseghian’s watch, the Fighting Irish never had a losing season, never fell lower than 14th in the end-of-season national polls and never lost back-to-back games in the regular season.
Parseghian finished with a career record of 170-58-6 before retiring from coaching and went on to a successful career as a color analyst for ABC and CBS from 1975 to 1988.
He was indicted in to the Miami University Athletics Hall of Fame’s starter class of 1969 and awarded an honorary doctorate by the university in 1978, serving on his alma ater’s board of trustees from 1978 to 1987. Parseghian, one of the pillars of the Cradle of Coaches at Miami University, officially had a statue unveiled at Miami’s Yager Stadium in 2011.
Parseghian was also a philanthropist, raising over $40 million in the fight against Niemann-Pick Type C disease, a progressive genetic disorder, through the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation.
Parseghian passed away at his home in Granger, Indiana, and is surivived by his wife of 68 years, Katie; a son, Michael, and his daughter, Kriss.