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Sunday, December 17 Sports

Former ND quarterback Hanratty remembers Parseghian

Terry Hanratty doesn’t remember which class he skipped during his sophomore year at Notre Dame. What he does remember is the phone call that came later that day from Ara Parseghian.

“I got a call to come down to his office. You only want to get that call once because you got the wrath of God,” Hanratty, a New Canaan resident, recalled Thursday. “He cared.”

Parseghian, a Hall of Fame coach who left a legacy of winning at Notre Dame, died Wednesday. He was 94.

“You’re an All-American quarterback and you miss one class, you figure, ‘Oh, we’ll let him go,’” Hanratty said. “No, not with Ara.”

Hanratty helped lead Notre Dame to the national championship in 1966, and was a consensus All-America pick in 1968. He finished in the top 10 of the Heisman voting in each of his three years as a starter.

“I said it way back when, I feel sorry for guys who did not play for Ara,” Hanratty said. “He was that charismatic.”

In Parseghian’s 11 seasons at the helm, from 1964-1974, Notre Dame went 95-17-4. He also won two national championships, in 1966 and 1973.

Hanratty, who went on to play eight years in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is still amazed by how Parseghian seemed to have an answer for everything.

“In the three years I played there, we were never surprised at anything that happened,” he said. “Sometimes we didn’t execute the game plan we had. I threw too many picks here or there, whatever, but we were never surprised.

“Ara had a great ability to call the right play at the right time.”

There were a few times when Hanratty didn’t call the play that was signaled in from the sideline. In one of those instances, during Hanratty’s junior year, Notre Dame still managed to score a touchdown.

“I came off the field and Ara says, ‘That wasn’t the play I called,’” Hanratty said. “I said, ‘Coach, the sun was in my eyes. I couldn’t see so I just called a play.’ He just smiled.”

Parseghian loosened the reins on his quarterback to the point where during a game against Michigan State in 1968, he let Hanratty call every play from the line of scrimmage.

“On the field, he was impeccable,” Hanratty said.

In the five seasons before Parseghian arrived, Notre Dame went 19-30. But Parseghian, who retired in 1974 to pursue a career in broadcasting, went on to record more victories at Notre Dame than every coach except Knute Rockne and Lou Holtz.

“He really saved Notre Dame football,” Hanratty said. “It obviously was big with Rockne; Rockne started it. [Frank] Leahy continued it; he brought it back at the first sort of downswing.”

Parseghian, who also coached at Miami of Ohio and Northwestern, finished his career with a record of 170-58-6.

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dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour

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