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Former football coach Ara Parseghian dies at 94

| Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Former Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian died Wednesday morning, according to a University press release. He was 94.

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Former Irish head coach Ara Parseghian reacts to a play from the sidelines during Notre Dame’s undefeated championship season in 1973. Parseghian died at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday at his home in Granger, Indiana, according to the release.

University President Fr. John Jenkins said Parseghian’s legacy as a legendary coach and mentor will remain at Notre Dame.

“Notre Dame mourns the loss of a legendary football coach, a beloved member of the Notre Dame family and good man – Ara Parseghian,” Jenkins said in the release. “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 Parseghian’s 11 seasons at Notre Dame, he led the football program to a 95-17-4 record, and won two National Championships in 1966 and 1973. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1980.

Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick was a student at the University during three of Parseghian’s seasons.

“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,” Swarbrick said in the release. “When I returned many years later as athletics director, Ara was unfailingly generous with his time, and his counsel proved to be invaluable.”

Notre Dame football head coach Brian Kelly said Parseghian was a “remarkable man.”

“We come across thousands and thousands of people throughout our lives, and most of the time, they come and go, but there are certain people from the moment you meet them, you realize they’re truly unique,” Kelly said in a tweet from Fighting Irish Athletics. “That’s Ara. His wit, his charm, his patience, his kindness, his foresight and his humility truly define him.”

Friend and fellow former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz echoed Kelly, saying “we have lost one of the most remarkable men I have ever known.”

“He was a role model for me in every facet of life, as a husband, father, coach, businessman and genuine friend,” Holtz said in a tweet from Fighting Irish Athletics.

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Former Irish head coach Ara Parseghian is carried by his players on to the field following Notre Dame’s 23-14 win over USC on Oct. 27, 1973. Parseghian compiled a record of 95-17-4 over his 11 seasons at Notre Dame.

One of Parseghian’s players from the 1966 title team Alan Page said the “world needs more people like Ara Parseghian.”

“Ara was an exceptional human being, in both his professional life and his private life,” Page said in a tweet from Fighting Irish Athletics. “I learned a great deal from him about discipline and keeping focused on the task at hand.”

Jenkins also said he remembered Parseghian’s work with the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation, which Parseghian started in 1994 to search for a cure for Niemann-Pick Type C Disease (NPC) after three of his grandchildren died from the illness.

“He continued to demonstrate that leadership by raising millions of research dollars seeking a cure for the terrible disease that took the lives of three of his grandchildren,” Jenkins said in the release.

The foundation raised more than $45 million in funding to research a cure for the disease, according to the release. After forming a partnership with the foundation in 2010, the University created the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Fund and “moved the administrative functions and granting process of the foundation” to Notre Dame in May 2016, the press release said.

“Whenever we asked for Ara’s help at Notre Dame, he was there,” Jenkins said in the release. “My prayers are with Katie, his family and many friends as we mourn his passing and celebrate a life that was so well lived.”

Parseghian received an honorary degree from the University at the 1997 Commencement ceremony. According to the press release, funeral arrangements are pending, and contributions can be made to the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Fund at Notre Dame in lieu of flowers.

In another University press release, Notre Dame announced Wednesday that the University will hold a Mass for the Feast of the Transfiguration and in memory of Ara Parseghian on Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. According to the release, Jenkins will preside at the Mass, which will be followed by a memorial celebration in Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. The release said former players, colleagues and family members will speak at the memorial, which is open to the public along with the Mass.

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