Ara Parseghian bridges Notre Dame and Miami history
At Notre Dame, history is lauded. Championships are cherished. Legends who ran through the tunnel are immortalized.
At Miami University, there's a similar history: a long lineage of coaches that could rival any program in the country. One of those coaches went on to become one of the most beloved by Fighting Irish faithful.
"Everyone at Notre Dame knows everything about Ara, but Ara's larger than life at Miami," said RedHawks coach Chuck Martin.
At a place dubbed the "Cradle of Coaches," its history is somewhat centered around Ara Parseghian.
Directly inside the front gate, a monument memorializes the late coach. While he'll forever don his Notre Dame sweater, the reminder is that Ara's career and life went through Oxford.
"He's from here," said Martin. "They don't think of him as a 'Notre Dame Ara Parseghian' like the rest of the world. It's Miami, as a player and as a coach."
Parseghian graduated from Miami in 1949. After his three-sport college career, he became an assistant under Woody Hayes. When the coach left for Ohio State, Ara took the helm for most of the first half of the 1950s.
During his time at Miami, Parseghian won plenty of games, but made an impact on the community that Irish fans came to know and love down the line.
"Pride in both institutions, where he started and where he finished," said Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. "[He went from the ] Cradle of Coaches and then arguably the greatest college football tradition."
That impact left locals in Oxford with lasting memories.
"My wife was taught by Ara Parseghian to play the piano when he was a member here at the Oxford Country Club," said Oxford-native and Miami fan Don "DJ" Wilhelm, whose experience with the coach turned the smallest of tokens into some of the most prized possessions.
"I have a picture in my basement, signed [by Parseghian] 'Best Wishes, DJ. Go Miami!'"
Now, the RedHawks football team is trying to emulate its former coach.
"With him passing away, we really want to play this season in honor of everything he stood for," said Martin.
Whether at Notre Dame or Miami University, Ara Parseghian left his mark.
"Play the game the right way all the time, and act the right way off the field, and do the best we can in the classroom," said Martin. "Really, this season is about playing football and being a human being like Ara Parseghian was his whole life."