Ara Parseghian rebuilt Notre Dame football, won two national titles and then, surprisingly, retired after 11 seasons. He never coached after 1974.
He was busy as a father, and tragically lost a daughter. He was busy as a grandfather, and tragically lost three grandchildren. He was kind and decent, respected and venerated, charitable and wise.
And now he’s gone. Parseghian died Wednesday at his home in Granger, Indiana. He was 94.
Parseghian took over at Notre Dame in 1964 when the school, unbelievably enough, had endured five non-winning seasons and was coming off a 2-7 disaster in 1963. The Irish would win national titles in 1966 and 1973 to recreate their legend. The coach’s .836 winning percentage ranks him third on Notre Dame’s all-time list behind fellow College Football Hall of Famers Knute Rockne (.881) and Frank Leahy (.855).
Only Rockne (105, 1918-30) and Lou Holtz (100, 1986-96) won more total games at Notre Dame than Parseghian’s 95. In Parseghian’s era, seasons were shorter than they are now, but his Notre Dame teams never lost more than three games, which happened only once, and twice went undefeated. It was he who convinced Notre Dame to end its policy of not playing in bowl games.
He quit at 51. He never went back. He remains a piece of a great time in college football, before its over-commercialization and its endless seasons.