National Football Foundation

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NFF Mourns the Passing of Hall of Famer Ara Parseghian
The Hall of Fame coach passed away Aug. 2 at the age of 94.
Published: 8/3/2017 2:55:00 PM
(Pictured: Parseghian (right) with Hall of Famer, NFF National Scholar-Athlete and NFF Board Member Thom Gatewood.)

Ara Parseghian, a 1980 College Football Hall of Fame inductee who coached at Miami (Ohio) and Northwestern before winning two national championships at Notre Dame and a share of a third, passed away Aug. 2 at his home in Granger, Ind. He was 94.

“Ara Parseghian embodied everything right with our great sport,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning, a 1989 Hall of Fame inductee from Ole Miss. “A tenacious player in college, he devoted his life to the game, becoming one of the most successful coaches in the history of college football. He understood how to mold young players into champions, and his contributions to our sport rank among the greatest of all-time. We are deeply sadden by his passing, and our thoughts are prayers are with friends and family.”

One of the most iconic names in college football history, Parseghian coached Hall of Fame players Ron Burton at Northwestern and Ross Browner, Dave Casper, Thom Gatewood, John Huarte, Jim Lynch, Ken MacAfee, Alan Page and Joe Theismann at Notre Dame.

“Coach Parseghian had a profound impact on my life,” said Gatewood, who serves on the national board of directors of the National Football Foundation. “My favorite Coach Parseghian quote is: ‘Talent discovered represents potential. Now add work and preparation, and you've got something: SUCCESS!’ I carry this thought with me everywhere.”

Ara Parseghian's early football days were spent with quality people. He lettered at halfback for Miami of Ohio from 1946-47, playing for Hall of Fame coach Sid Gillman and with teammate Paul Dietzel. He also played in 1945 for Great Lakes Naval Training Center and from 1948-49 for the Cleveland Browns. His coach at both those places was NFF Gold Medal recipient and Pro Football Hall of Famer Paul Brown.

He landed his first coaching job as an assistant to Hall of Fame coach Woody Hayes at Miami in 1950, taking over the school’s head job from 1951-55 and producing a record of 39-6-1.He coached at Northwestern from 1956-63 with a record of 36-35-1, and at Notre Dame 1964-74 with a record of 95-17-4. His totals for 24 years: 170-58-6 and an impressive winning percentage of .739. The NFF named his Notre Dame teams national champions three times, presenting them the NFF MacArthur Bowl in 1964, 1966 (famously split with Michigan State) and 1973.

When he arrived at Northwestern, the team had gone 0-8-1 the year before; he improved this to 4-4-1. At Notre Dame the record the year before Parseghian was 2-7; he moved this to 9-1. At Notre Dame a big victory came in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 1971, beating Texas 24-11 and ending a 30-game Longhorn victory streak. Another big win came Dec. 31, 1973, in the Sugar Bowl as Notre Dame beat Alabama 24-23 to wrap up the national championship.

After coaching, Parseghian became a color commentator for ABC Sports from 1975-81 and CBS Sports in 1988. In 1994, Parseghian founded the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation, which raised funds to fight a rare genetic pediatric nerve disorder (Niemann-Pick Type C disease) that killed three of his grandchildren.

He is survived by his wife, Kathleen, whom he married in 1948; a daughter, Kristan, and a son, Michael. Another daughter, Karan, died in 2012.  Born May 21, 1929 in Akron, Ohio, Parseghian was the third oldest living Hall of Famer at the time of his death, following Nick Drahos (Cornell) and Charley Trippi (Georgia).

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