Ara Parseghian’s legendary career didn’t translate into much cardboard

Ara Parseghian is among the legendary names in the history of Notre Dame football — a program with plenty of legends — but you wouldn’t necessarily know that by looking at trading cards.

You’d think there’d be plenty to collect for the coach who led the Fighting Irish for a decade and went 95-17-4 with two national championships but there really isn’t.

“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,” Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins told The Associated Press about the coach who died Wednesday at age 94. “Whenever we asked for Ara’s help at Notre Dame, he was there.”

While collegiate cardboard really didn’t arrive until the 1990s and even moreso in the mid-2000s, the coach still only appeared on just over 60 different cards. The good news? A third of those are certified autographs. Also good? Parseghian was a regular signer through the mail and elsewhere so you can find his autographs easily.

His earliest certified autographs were found in the 2003 TK Legacy Notre Dame release before Press Pass brought him into more mainstream cardboard with an appearance in 2006 Press Pass Legends. After that, he could be found in 2007 Donruss Elite Extra Edition — a baseball set that tacked on legendary players and coaches throughout the sports world — and then 2012 Topps Allen & Ginter and Upper Deck‘s Notre Dame football set in 2013. The remainder of his autos are of the cut variety. For unsigned cards, Parseghian can be found in past team issues and probably most easily in the 1990 Notre Dame Collegiate Collection set.

Parseghian’s teams won at least seven games every season during his Notre Dame run (1964-74), which culminated in an 11-win national championship in 1973 and a 10-2 season in his finale. His teams were ranked in the Top 10 nine times and also never lost back-to-back games during the regular season. He’s one of only three Notre Dame coaches to win more than one national championship — his first came in 1966.

“He recognized something in people, especially their character and heart,” one of Parseghian’s former players, Rudy Ruettiger, told USA Today. “Years later, I heard that he walked into a coaches’ meeting and told the coaches about our first meeting. Ara told them, ‘He was just one of those kids you couldn’t say no to.’

“He gets respect from Notre Dame fans, at least the ones who know what he accomplished,” Ruettiger said. “In my opinion, he doesn’t get enough recognition.”

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