Ara Parseghian, who took over a flailing Notre Dame football program a half-century ago and brought it back to national prominence, passed away very early Wednesday morning at the age of 94, the university announced in a release.
Parseghian had been hospitalized last month because of an infection in his hip. He only recently returned to his home in Granger, Ind., as he continued battling the infection.
“Notre Dame mourns the loss of a legendary football coach, a beloved member of the Notre Dame family and good man — Ara Parseghian,” university president Rev. John L 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 took the lives of three of his 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.”
In the eight years prior to Parseghian’s arrival in 1964, the Fighting Irish finished at or below .500 in six of those years; in 1963, they went 2-7. They hadn’t won a national champion ship in more than 15 years.
The turnaround under Parseghian was immediate as they went 9-1 in his first season and finished the year ranked third in the country. In 11 seasons with Parseghian as coach, the Irish went 95-17-4 and won two national championships, 1966 and 1973.
Just twice in those 11 seasons did the Irish finish outside the Top 10, an 8-2 1971 season that left them 13th in the final Associated Press poll and 8-3 the following year that had them 14th.
In his final season, which was capped by a win in the Orange Bowl, they were sixth in the country after finishing 10-2.
“As a student, I enjoyed the thrill of being on campus for Ara’s last three years as head coach, including the 1973 championship, and saw firsthand the profound impact that he had on my classmates who played for him,” said athletic director Jack Swarbrick. “When I returned many years later as athletics director, Ara was unfailingly generous with his time, and his counsel proved to be invaluable.”
In addition to his time at Notre Dame, Parseghian served as the head coach at Northwestern (36-35-1, 1956-63) and Miami of Ohio (39-6-1, 1951-55). Overall, he went 170-58-6 as a head coach.
In 1980, Parseghian was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.