||This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2009)|
May 21, 1923 |
|Position(s)||Running back, defensive back|
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|Miami (OH) (assistant)
|Head coaching record|
College Football Data Warehouse
|Accomplishments and honors|
2 National (1966, 1973)
2 MAC (1954–1955)
AFCA Coach of the Year (1964)
Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year (1964)
Sporting News College Football COY (1966)
Amos Alonzo Stagg Award (1997)
|College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1980 (profile)
Ara Raoul Parseghian (born May 21, 1923) is a former American football player and coach of Armenian descent. He served as the head football coach at Miami University (1951–1955), Northwestern University (1956–1963), and the University of Notre Dame (1964–1974), compiling a career college football record of 170–58–6. During his 11 seasons as head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, known popularly as "the Era of Ara," Parseghian tallied a mark of 95–17–4 record for a .836 winning percentage. His teams of 1966 and 1973 won national titles. Parseghian was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1980.
Playing career 
After serving in the United States Navy during World War II, Parseghian played halfback at Miami University. He was drafted in the 13th round of the 1947 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, but did not attempt to make the roster and later signed with the Cleveland Browns. He played running back and defensive back during 1948 and 1949 before an injury ended his playing career. With the Browns he had 44 carries for 166 yards, three receptions for 33 yards, scored two touchdowns, and intercepted one pass.
Coaching career 
Miami University 
Parseghian launched his coaching career as freshman team coach under Woody Hayes at Miami University in 1950, then was elevated to head coach the following year when Hayes left to assume the head coaching job at Ohio State University. Parseghian stayed at his alma mater through the 1955 season, compiling a 39–6–1 record, when he was hired by Northwestern University.
Parseghian was the 20th head coach for the Northwestern Wildcats football team and he held that position for eight seasons, from 1956 until 1963. His career coaching record at Northwestern was 36–35–1. This ranks him third at Northwestern in total wins and ninth at Northwestern in winning percentage. During his tenure at Northwestern, the Wildcats renewed their series with Notre Dame after a decade-long hiatus. Parseghian's teams defeated the Irish four straight times.
Notre Dame 
Following a 5–4 season in 1963, a falling out with Northwestern athletic director Stu Holcomb prompted Parseghian to contact Father Edmund P. Joyce, vice president and chairman of the faculty board in control of athletics at the University of Notre Dame. Parseghian inquired about Hugh Devore's status as interim head football coach and when Father Joyce affirmed that the University was searching for a new coach, he expressed his interest in the job. Parseghian's candidacy for the head coaching job at Notre Dame was notable for two reasons. First, he was not a Notre Dame graduate, as every head coach since Knute Rockne had been. Second, Parseghian was Presbyterian and not Roman Catholic, although Rockne (who converted in 1923), Jesse Harper and Edward McKeever were not Catholics either. After an undisclosed initial disagreement, Parseghian was hired as Notre Dame's 22nd head coach, inheriting a team that had finished 2–7 in 1963 and taking it to within 1:33 of an undefeated season and a national championship in 1964.
Parseghian discovered talent in quarterback John Huarte and end Jack Snow. The tandem set numerous school passing and receiving records and Huarte won the Heisman Trophy in 1964. Parseghian did away with all ornamentation on his players' uniforms, eliminating the shamrocks and shoulder stripes, and switched the team's home jerseys to navy blue. During his tenure, the Irish never wore green jerseys.
During the Era of Ara, the Irish won two national championships in 1966 and 1973, and the 1964 team was also awarded the MacArthur Trophy. In 1969, the Notre Dame administration changed its policy that had forbidden the team from playing in bowl games. Parseghian led the team to its first bowl game since Rockne coached the team, the 1970 Cotton Bowl Classic, losing 21–17 to the eventual national champion Texas Longhorns. The Irish avenged that loss in the 1971 Cotton Bowl Classic, defeating the Longhorns, 24–11.
Parseghian's tenure also included a number of controversial episodes. He was accused of playing for a tie against Michigan State in 1966 in one of the most noted games in college football history. Parseghian defended his strategy by maintaining that several key starters had been knocked out of action early in the game and that he did not want to spoil a courageous comeback from a 10–0 deficit by risking a turnover deep in his own territory late in the game that could hand the game to the Spartans. When Parseghian's team beat USC 51–0 the following week, critics alleged that he ran up the score, even though two of Notre Dame's touchdowns were the result of interception returns, to impress poll voters who had split the number one ranking between Notre Dame and Michigan State following the tie. Subsequent to the USC rout, the final wire service polls did in fact vote the national championship to Parseghian's team.
In 1973, Parseghian had the perfect season that had previously eluded him, topped off by a 24–23 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. He considered retiring after that game, but later decided to stay on. The Irish were set to return most of their starters back in 1974 and were favored to repeat as national champions. Then six players were suspended for violating school rules and several other key players were injured. An upset loss to underdog Purdue all but derailed the team's hopes to repeat as national champions. All of this, combined with the ever-present pressure to win took its toll, and he privately decided after the eighth game to resign at the end of the season for the sake of his health. However, his resignation was not publicized until mid-December. With Notre Dame's 13–11 win in a rematch against Alabama in the Orange Bowl, Parseghian retired on a winning note. He was succeeded by Dan Devine.
Parseghian planned to take one year off from coaching and see if he still "felt the itch" to return afterwards. He ruled out taking a sabbatical leave from Notre Dame, feeling that it would be unfair to have an assistant run the program, only to have to step aside after one year. Since he regarded Notre Dame as the pinnacle of collegiate coaching jobs, he would only entertain offers from the pros. His last coaching appearance was with the College All-Stars against the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers on July 24, 1976 at Chicago's Soldier Field. The game was halted in the second half when a torrential thunderstorm broke out and play was never resumed. It was the last such game ever played.
During Parseghian's tenure at Notre Dame, the school's long-dormant football rivalry with Michigan was revived. Although the two schools are located within 200 miles of one another, and despite the fact that players from Michigan had introduced the game of football to students at Notre Dame in 1887, they had not met on the gridiron since 1943. While athletic directors Moose Krause and Don Canham were credited for reaching an agreement to resume the series, Parseghian's friendship with Wolverine head coach Bo Schembechler figured as well. Parshegian and Schembechler were teammates at Miami University and Schembechler served on Parshegian's staff at Northwestern in 1956 and 1957. Parseghian never coached against Schembechler since Michigan and Notre Dame did not meet on the field again until 1978.
Later life 
Parseghian's career record was 170–58–6. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1980, the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 1984, and the Cotton Bowl Classic Hall of Fame in 2007 and was named an honorary Notre Dame alumnus in 1974. He is also a member of the Miami University Athletic Hall of Fame.
He served as one of two honorary coaches along with Lou Holtz in Notre Dame's 2007 Spring Game. Holtz's Gold Team defeated Parseghian's Blue team, 10–6.
In 2007 Notre Dame unveiled a statue in his honor, which depicts players carrying him off the field in triumph following the 1971 Cotton Bowl Classic.
In 2011, Miami University also unveiled a statue in his honor to add to the RedHawks' Cradle of Coaches statues. It shows him wearing a Notre Dame sweater as he kneels and looks ahead to the field.
Personal life 
Parseghian is married to the former Kathleen Davis. They are the parents of three children.
Parseghian, along with his son and daughter-in-law, Mike and Cindy Parseghian, founded the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation which is seeking a cure for Niemann-Pick disease Type C (NP-C), a genetic, pediatric, neurodegenerative disorder responsible for the build-up of cholesterol in cells, resulting in eventual damage to the nervous system. Three of his grandchildren, Michael, Marcia, and Christa Parseghian, died from this disease. He is also active in the cause to find a cure for multiple sclerosis; his daughter, Karan, was diagnosed with the disease. He is portrayed by his late friend Jason Miller in the film Rudy.
Head coaching record 
|Miami Redskins (Mid-American Conference) (1951–1955)|
|Northwestern Wildcats (Big Ten Conference) (1956–1963)|
|Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Independent) (1964–1974)|
|1969||Notre Dame||8–2–1||L Cotton||9||5|
|1970||Notre Dame||10–1||W Cotton||5||2|
|1972||Notre Dame||8–3||L Orange||12||14|
|1973||Notre Dame||11–0||W Sugar||4*||1|
|1974||Notre Dame||10–2||W Orange||4||6|
|National championship Conference title Conference division title|
|#Rankings from final Coaches' Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.
*Note: before the 1974 season, the final Coaches' Poll, also known then as the UPI Poll, was released before the bowl games, so a team that lost its bowl game could still claim the UPI national championship. This was changed as a result of Alabama winning the 1973 Coaches' Poll national championship despite losing to Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.
- Northwestern Wildcats coaching records
- "All-Time Coaching Records: Ara R. Parseghian Records by Year". College Football Data Warehouse. Retrieved 2010-03-22.
- Pagna, Tom, "Notre Dame's Era of Ara" (Diamond Communications, Inc., South Bend, IN, 1976) ISBN 0-912083-74-3
- ESPN College Encyclopedia: The Complete History of the Game (ESPN Books, New York, NY, 2005) ISBN 1-4013-3703-1
- Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation
- Ara Parseghian at the College Football Hall of Fame
- Ara Parseghian at the College Football Data Warehouse