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AFM Magazine

Legends of the Hall

Ara Parseghian
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With 119 chapters and over 12,000 members nationwide, The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame, a non-profit educational organization, runs programs designed to use the power of amateur football in developing scholarship, citizenship and athletic achievement in today’s young people. National Football Foundation programs include the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind., Play It Smart, the NFF Center for Youth Development Through Sport at Springfield College, the NFL/NFF Coaching Academy, and annual scholarships of nearly $1 million for college and high school scholar-athletes. Each month American Football Monthly will profile a member of the College Football Hall of Fame – our October coach is Ara Parseghian.

While Ara Parseghian was a head coach at three different colleges spanning a 24-year period, he is forever remembered as the coach that turned Notre Dame’s future around in the mid 1960s. In his first year in South Bend in 1964, he inherited a 2-7 team that finished 9-1 coming within an eyelash of winning the National Championship behind the leadership of Heisman Trophy winner and 2005 College Football Hall of Fame inductee John Huarte.

Born in Akron, Ohio in 1923, Parseghian entered Akron University in 1941 but joined the Navy after his freshman year. After he returned from the service, he enrolled at Miami (Ohio) where he starred in three sports. After playing briefly with the Cleveland Browns, his playing career as a halfback ended with a hip injury in 1949. Parseghian then became freshman football coach at Miami and succeeded Woody Hayes as the school’s head football coach in 1951. His 1955 team won all nine of its games, including a 6-0 upset of Indiana.

In 1956, Parseghian took over at Northwestern which produced five winning teams during the next eight years and beat Notre Dame four times in a four-year period. Notre Dame hired him away in 1964, and during an eleven year reign 1964-1974, the Irish won two National Championships, compiling an overall mark of 95-17-4. In 1966, the Irish and Michigan State, undefeted in late November that fall, battled toa 10-10 tie in an epic struggle that has been come to be known as ‘The Game of the Century’. Notre Dame won three bowl games during Parseghian’s tenure – the 1971 Cotton Bowl, the 1973 Sugar Bowl, and the 1975 Orange Bowl. His overall record as head coach at Miami, Northwestern and Notre Dame was 170-58-6, a winning percentage of .739. He was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1980.

Parseghian was a analyst for ABC Sports from 1975-1981 and for CBS Sports from 1982-1988. While remembered as the second winningest coach in Notre Dame history, the legendary coach has devoted more than the last two decades of his life to helping his son Michael, and daughter-in-law, Cindy, find a cure for a genetic disorder called Niemann-Pick Type C disease. An inherited disorder that affects the liver, lungs, and brain, three of his grandchildren have succumbed to the disease since 1997. Established in 1981, The Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation has raised more than $22 million to fight this rare disease.


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