Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Ara Parseghian

If you became a college football fan at any time from the mid-1960s through the mid 1970s, you were fed a steady dish of Notre Dame football, whether or not you rooted for the Irish. The team had its own program that aired every Sunday morning, with the legendary Lindsey Nelson narrating a summary of the day's previous game ("...and now we pick up the action in the second quarter, with Notre Dame driving..."). Of course, they nearly always won.
Their coach during that era was Ara Parseghian. Not particularly flashy, and certainly not as charismatic as his peers Bear Bryant, John McKay, Woody Hayes, Darrell Royal or Bo Schembechler, all Parseghian did was win, as evidenced by his ND record of 95-17-4 - with two national championships to his credit. And sure, while one could say that in Notre Dame Parseghian had a built-in advantage that no other school in the country enjoyed, the intervening years have proven that it takes more than a talented coach to win a national title at Notre Dame.
Parseghian could have stayed at Notre Dame for as long as he wanted, but he left about as close to the top as one could imagine - an Orange Bowl upset of top-ranked Alabama, once again vexing the legendary Bear, just as his team had done two seasons before in one of the greatest college football games ever played: the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Eve 1973, which ended with the Irish prevailing 24-23.
Parseghian led a good, if not always easy life - he was a World War II veteran, he would have celebrated his 70th wedding anniversary next year, and in his later years he was a tireless advocate for medical research, after his daughter was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and after three of his grandchildren died from a rare genetic disease.

And on a day when it once again appears that our "leaders" may be prepared to turn their backs on the words of Emma Lazarus, it is worth mentioning that Parseghian's father immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s, to escape the Armenian Genocide. In his honor and in the honor of his son, let's hope that future generations will have the opportunities to succeed that Ara Parseghian had.


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