Legendary Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian passes away

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(Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)

There was sad news for fans of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Wednesday morning, as it was announced that legendary Head Football Coach Ara Parseghian passed away.

A Notre Dame spokesperson quoted family who said the former coach passed away at his home in Granger around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.

“Notre Dame mourns the loss of a legendary football coach, a beloved member of the Notre Dame family and good man – Ara Parseghian,” Father John 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.”

In 11 seasons at Notre Dame, dubbed “the Era of Ara,” he had an incredible 95-17-4 record, including national championships in 1966 and 1973. He never had a losing season during his “Era of Ara” and only ranks behind Knute Rockne and Lou Holtz in wins in Notre Dame football history.

“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 Jack Swarbrick, vice president and James E. Rohr Director of Athletics. “When I returned many years later as athletics director, Ara was unfailingly generous with his time, and his counsel proved to be invaluable.”

In his autobiography “God, Country, Notre Dame,” the late University President Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., related the importance he and his executive vice president, Rev. Edmund P. “Ned” Joyce, C.S.C., placed on luring Parseghian to Notre Dame from Northwestern University after the 1963 season:

“Ara called Father Joyce, whom he knew well … (and) told (him) that he had decided to leave Northwestern and was considering several offers. Would Notre Dame be interested in him? Would we!

“Parseghian had agreed to meet us on neutral ground, which turned out to be a Chicago motel at 9:30 at night. I won’t soon forget that night. Ned and I drove some 80 miles in a blinding snowstorm to keep that appointment. And it was worth it.”

After his coaching career, he went into broadcasting and was inducted into the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame in 1980.

Later in life, he became involved in medical causes. He started the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation in 1994 after three of his children died from Niemann-Pick disease Type C – a genetic disorder affecting children that causes the buildup of cholesterol in blood cells. It causes nerve damage and can be fatal. After his daughter Karan was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, his foundation also sought a cure for that disease.

Coach Parseghian was 94 years old.

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