Greg Cote

This football coach capped his career with an epic win in the old Orange Bowl

Ara Parseghian tries on Bear Bryant’s houndstooth hat at press conference prior to 1975 Orange Bowl game in Miami.
Ara Parseghian tries on Bear Bryant’s houndstooth hat at press conference prior to 1975 Orange Bowl game in Miami. File photo

Miami -- the Orange Bowl game and also the Hurricanes -- played a role in the legendary career of Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian, who passed away Wednesday at age 94.

Parseghian's Fighting Irish were unbeaten against UM, going 5-0-1 in six meetings between 1965 and 1974, with four of those games played in Miami. The last of his games vs. Miami, a 38-7 Notre Dame win in South Bend, came in Parseghian's final season before retiring.

Parseghian capped his career, and cemented his legend, back in Miami in the 1974-season Orange Bowl game, played on New Year's NIght '75. His only previous OB appearance, two seasons earlier, had been an embarrassment to Parseghian, a 40-6 loss to Nebraska. But two years later marked an epic and fitting ending to a Hall of Fame career.

His final game matched Parseghian vs. Alabama and its storied coach, Paul "Bear" Bryant. Notre Dame had lost twice and was ranked No. 9. 'Bama was 11-0, ranked No. 2 and thinking national championship. The OB was filled with 71,801 fans. Bryant would coach eight more seasons but Parseghian had announced his retirement two weeks earlier -- and rode off on his players' shoulders, story-book fashion, after a 13-11 Irish triumph sealed by Reggie Barnett's interception of Richard Todd with less than two minutes to play.

A two-time national champion with a career record of 170-58-6, Parseghian referenced that final game in the OB in explaining years later why'd he'd chosen to retire after 11 season in South Bend, though only aged 51.

"My feeling was relief. I was under a lot of pressure," he said. "It was self-inflicted. External pressure I never worried about. You became a victim of your success. As an example, we win the national championship in 1973, and the following year we're 10-2 and win the Orange Bowl and everybody wondered what happened!"

Parseghian coached in Miami a total of seven games: Two OB bowl games, four here vs. the Hurricanes, and, pre-Notre Dame, two games vs. UM in Miami when he coached Northwestern. The Canes won the first of those meetings, in 1961, and lost the following season.