Browns player, longtime college coach Ara Parseghian dies at 94

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Ara Parseghian, who played for coach Paul Brown with the Cleveland Browns in the 1940s and then became one of the most influential coaches in college football, has died at the age of 94.

Parseghian grew up in Akron and initially enrolled at the University of Akron, but he quit college to join the Navy during World War II and first played for Brown on a service team at the Great Lakes Naval Station. After his military service, Parseghian enrolled at Miami of Ohio, where he played for Hall of Fame coach Sid Gillman.

The Steelers chose Parseghian in the 1947 NFL draft, but he chose instead to play for his old coach on the Browns, who at the time played in the All-America Football Conference, a rival to the NFL. Parseghian’s pro playing career lasted just two years before a hip injury forced him to retire.

In 1950, Parseghian took a job coaching at Miami of Ohio under the legendary Woody Hayes, and when Hayes left at the end of the year to coach Ohio State, the 28-year-old Parseghian was promoted to Miami of Ohio’s head coach. After five seasons and a 39–6–1 record, Parseghian left Miami of Ohio to coach at Northwestern.

The team Parseghian took over had gone 0-8-1 the previous season, but he immediately improved them to 4-4-1 in his first year and by his third year had Northwestern ranked in the Top 20 of the coaches’ poll. After eight seasons at Northwestern, Parseghian left for Notre Dame.

That was where he saw his greatest success. Notre Dame was coming off one of the worst seasons in its history when Parseghian took the job, finishing 2-7 in 1963. Parseghian immediately turned the team around, going 9-1 in 1964. In his third season, 1966, the Fighting Irish won a national championship after Parseghian made the controversial decision to run out the clock and play for a tie against Michigan State in a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2. Parseghian would also win a share of the national championship in 1973, and his teams finished in the Top 15 in all 11 of his seasons as head coach.

After retiring from coaching, Parseghian became a broadcaster. In 1980 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

14 responses to “Browns player, longtime college coach Ara Parseghian dies at 94

  1. Had a “History of Notre Dame” VHS tape many, many years ago, and I always recall learning about him and “The Era of Ara.” Definitely a legend of college sports.

  2. Sad to hear of Ara passing; a respected man and legendary head coach; he is fondly remembered. RIP.

    As for the ’66 game, which has its controversy, still the greatest college game I ever saw. The caliber of players on the field that day…incredible. As proof, 4 Michigan State players where drafted in the first 8 picks of the ’67 draft!

  3. I loved Notre Dame until that game in 1966 against Michigan State. Parseghian chose to run out the clock with 1:10 left and the ball on their 30 yard line and play for a 10 – 10 tie so that ND could win the National Championship. His own QB, Coley O’Brien said years later that he disagreed with that decision and felt that it took away from Notre Dame’s NCAA Championship.
    Notre Dame and Michigan State both finished 9-0-1 and Alabama, the two time defending national champion, finished at 11 and 0. But Notre Dame was awarded the national championship. Had I been a writer, no way I would have voted for Notre Dame.
    I watched that game and I was very disappointed with Parseghian’s decision to do that. It took a little luster off that championship for me and made Parseghian seem gutless. And after that, I never rooted for Notre Dame again. I still root against them to this day.
    He was an excellent coach, though, and he was a very good college football analyst as well.
    R.I.P. Ara.

  4. nyneal says:
    Aug 2, 2017 10:54 AM

    I watched that game and I was very disappointed with Parseghian’s decision to do that.

    Had I been a writer, no way I would have voted for Notre Dame.
    What’s a coach to do? Its not his fault that the writers still voted N.D. as National Champs.

    Very smartly played. Why risk a National Championship?
    He was supposed to throw bombs and call risky plays to please you?

    It’s the voters fault, not the coaches.

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