Ara Parseghian, who brought Notre Dame football back to national prominence in the 1960s after almost a decade of futility, died on Wednesday at age 94, the school announced in a statement.
When Parseghian took over at Notre Dame, the Irish were coming off a 2-7 record. In his first season, they finished 9-1 with their only loss to Southern Cal.
The program would go on to win two national championships in his 11-year tenure, with his best season being 1973 when they finished 11-0 and beat Bear Bryant and Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
Parseghian grew up in Akron, Ohio, and didn't start playing football until his junior year in high school. After a stint in the Navy during World War II, he played at Miami of Ohio and played two seasons for the Cleveland Browns, before his career was cut short by a hip injury.
He began coaching in 1951 at Miami, as an assistant for Woody Hayes. When Hayes left for Ohio State in 1952, Parseghian took over and held that job until 1956 when he was hired as head coach at Northwestern.
It was at Northwestern that he learned the art of recruiting, getting players the bigger schools in the Big 10 overlooked. His best season was 1962, when for two weeks the Wildcats were ranked No. 1 in the AP poll. His teams beat Notre Dame four straight seasons, from 1959-62.
After winning the Orange Bowl in 1974, the second consecutive bowl win against Alabama, Parseghian retired at age 51 with a record of 95–17–4, which was second only to Knute Rockne. The pressure to win at Notre Dame began to take a toll on his health, he said at the time, and that's why he retired.
He began a stint in broadcasting, working with play-by-play announcer Keith Jackson on ABC from 1975-81, then at CBS from 1982-88.
He started the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation in 1994, in part to fund research for a cure of a genetic disorder called Niemann-Pick disease, something that caused the death of three of his grandchildren. The Foundation raises approximately $2.3 million each year, according to the website. He also has been working to raise money for research on multiple sclerosis because it affected his daughter.
Parseghian was a down-to-earth coach, who had a reputation for being a players coach. His practices were more organized and scripted instead of intense and physical. He once said about coaches: "A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are."
With an overall coaching record of 170-58-6, he was inducted into the college football Hall of Fame in 1980.
© 2017 USATODAY.COM