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Parseghian on Notre Dame scheduling, recruiting and money in college football

Ara Parseghian left behind a tradition of excellence, having focused on his relationships with his players and watching over Notre Dame Football in good times and in bad.

In going through various articles and box scores about and from Ara’s era the last few days, it was hard not to think about how much things have changed since his title-winning years. Of course, that is to be expected.

Yet some things remain quite similar. Take Parseghian’s response a few years ago to the wondering if an independent, nationally-focused schedule helped or harmed Notre Dame’s championship hopes.

“It gave us an opportunity to play teams from throughout the United States — our traditional rivalries with Southern California, Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue, and we had Navy on our schedule all the time because they helped us during the war years,” Parseghian said. “We played teams from every conference. We played teams from the south, then from the west. It was a national opportunity. It gave us the opportunity to schedule people that clamored for a Notre Dame-Ohio State game, and so forth.”

Not only do the Irish still face most of those each year and the others every few years — not to mention the 2022 and 2023 home-and-home series scheduled with the Buckeyes — but it also sounds very similar to Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick’s comments to Irish Illustrated’s Pete Sampson last month.

“We want [games] against the major conferences,” Swarbrick said. “We’ll always have a Pac-12 marker, we’ll have two every year. More often than not we’ll have a Big Ten marker. We’ll always have an ACC marker.

“The focus was trying to build some SEC markers into the schedule with A&M, Georgia and Arkansas. We’ve been able to do that.”

Nonetheless, the aforementioned expected comes to mind with reason. Things change. The Irish did not have an exclusive television deal during Parseghian’s tenure. He famously never made in-home recruiting visits. His contract supposedly prevented him from ever making more than Notre Dame’s highest-paid faculty member.

Yes, cookies crumble, milkshakes melt, things change.

“I think it’s probably gone over the top a little bit, not just at Notre Dame — I’m talking nationally in all of collegiate football,” Parseghian said. “Money and television have directed it. They’re going 12 months of the year now.

“Recruiting goes back to sophomores [in high school] for goodness’ sake.

“Money has been a big factor because of television. The game is of great interest to the football fans and to people across the entire country. The salaries are enormous. I’ve always said I was born too soon.”

There is no intended larger philosophical point here. Simply enough, those Parseghian quotes seemed both thought-provoking and pertinent to 2017.

On top of that, hopefully, maybe, perhaps they possibly shed some more light on the legendary coach and his stretch of success.

One last piece on Parseghian today. Notre Dame will honor him throughout the season with a simple but hard-to-miss acknowledgement. At the end of this video of Irish coach Brian Kelly addressing the team Wednesday, he says “ARA” will appear on the front of the Notre Dame helmets above the facemasks, where it usually reads “IRISH”.

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