Legendary Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian dies at age 94

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Granger, Ind. (WNDU) -- Legendary former Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian died early Wednesday morning at his Granger home.

The 94-year-old National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame coach led the university's 1966 and 1973 national championship teams.

He retired after 11 seasons but stayed in Michiana, going into private business.

A Mass and Celebration of the Life of Ara Parseghian will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame. The University’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., will preside. A memorial celebration will follow the funeral at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. Family members and former players and colleagues will speak.

The public is invited to both the Mass and memorial.

Parseghian recently returned home after spending time at a nursing facility due to an infection in his surgically repaired hip.

“Notre Dame mourns the loss of a legendary football coach, a beloved member of the Notre Dame family and good man – Ara Parseghian," University President Father John Jenkins said in a statement. "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. 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. Whenever we asked for Ara’s help at Notre Dame, he was there. 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 was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1980 and had a 95-17-4 record over his 11 seasons with the Irish.

“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,” said Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame Director of Athletics in a release. “When I returned many years later as athletics director, Ara was unfailingly generous with his time, and his counsel proved to be invaluable.”

In November of 1994, Ara and his family faced a battle much larger than any on the gridiron. He learned that three of his four grandchildren had a mysterious disease called Niemann-Pick Type C.

He formed The Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation, which seeks a cure.

His goal was to raise $1 million to help fund research for a cure for Niemann-Pick Type C. While he couldn’t save his grandchildren, great progress has been made since that time. The foundation has now raised $45 million, and there are 75 laboratories worldwide working on a cure.

In a conversation with NewsCenter 16's Maureen McFadden in 2009, Ara used a football analogy to explain how far the foundation has come.

"We wound up with the ball on our own one-foot line with the goal 99 and two thirds away when we found out about Niemann-Pick. With our research, our investigative work, we pushed that ball out to the 30-, 40-yard line. We're in the four down area now," Ara explained.

Ara died knowing that an important clinical trial started in March of this year. It involves a drug that is showing great promise for those with Niemann-Pick Type C.

A Mass for the Feast of the Transfiguration and Celebration of the Life of Ara Parseghian will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday (Aug. 6) at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame. The University’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., will preside.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Fund at Notre Dame.

You can read more from the university about Parseghian's life and death at this link.