Throwback Thursday: Sept. 26, 1964, 'Era of Ara' begins

Under Parseghian, Irish rout Wisconsin in season opener in Madison

Margaret Fosmoe
South Bend Tribune

It was like a blessed deluge after years of drought.

On Sept. 26, 1964, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame traveled to Madison, Wis., and routed the Wisconsin Badgers 31-7 in the season opener.

It was the debut for new Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian.

See the Tribune front page from the game:

Parseghian, 41 at the time, was a welcome arrival after a doleful 2-7 record for the Irish in 1963. Notre Dame hadn't had a winning season since 1958.

Parseghian gained his initial head coaching experience at Miami of Ohio. Notre Dame hired him based on his record at Northwestern, where the Wildcats went 36-35-1 under his coaching from 1956 through 1963.

"Irish whip Badgers, 31-7," proclaimed the South Bend Tribune’s front-page banner headline in the Sept. 27, 1964 edition. "'Era of Ara' has happy beginning," read the subhead.

It was a miserable day weather-wise, but a great day for the Irish on the field at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis.

See photos from the game:

"Dark clouds, rain and a 25 to 35 mile per hour wind made it anything but a great day for football, but for the Irish it was strictly a day of sunshine," Tribune sports editor Joe Doyle reported in the Sept. 27 newspaper. "Two of the brightest rays were quarterback John Huarte and end Jack Snow, who teamed up to break one all-time Notre Dame passing record and get the Irish off to a great start in their 76th football season."

Huarte completed 15 of 24 passing attempts, nine of them to Snow, who totaled 217 yards on his catches and scored two touchdowns.

The yardage set a school record, breaking the old mark of 208 yards set by Jim Morse in 1935.

The Irish defense held the Badgers to negative-51 rushing yards.

Notre Dame players carried Parseghian off the field at the end of the game.

See the Tribune's game review:

It was just the beginning for the Irish that season. Parseghian's team went 9-1 in 1964, losing only to USC.

In 1965, Parseghian's team went 7-2-1.

And in 1966, the Irish went 9-0-1. The tie was the famous and controversial 10-10 game with Michigan State, during which Notre Dame elected not to try to score on the final series. Both schools later claimed national titles for the season.

Parseghian led his team to another national championship in 1973. The Fighting Irish football team never had a losing season during his 11 years as Notre Dame's head coach. He left coaching in 1974 and had a long broadcasting career.

Parseghian's Irish teams posted an overall record of 95–17–4, giving him the third-most wins of any coach in Notre Dame history, after Knute Rockne and Lou Holtz.

Based on his performance in that 1964 season, Huarte was selected as an All-American and won the Heisman Trophy. He was the sixth Irish player to receive the Heisman. Huarte threw 205 passes for 2,062 yards, an average of more than 10 yards per pass attempt, many to Snow. Huarte later played for the NFL with teams in Boston, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Kansas City and Chicago.

Parseghian had switched Snow from flanker to split end. Snow finished the 1964 season as a consensus All-American and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting. He played for the Los Angeles Rams from 1965 to 1975.

Parseghian, now 92, remains a favorite former Irish coach among fans. He still lives in the South Bend area.


New Notre Dame head coach Ara Parsegian and team captain Jim Carroll (60) lead the team out onto the field in Notre Dame Stadium on Aug. 31, 1964, which was picture day for the team and the day before the season's practices were to begin. SBT File Photo
Notre Dame head coach Ara Parseghian, at right, shown on Sept. 1, 1964, in Notre Dame Stadium with three of his potential quarterbacks for the season (from left), Sandy Bonvechio, John Huarte and Hugh O'Malley, who was from South Bend. Huarte went on to be the primary quarterback that season and win the Heisman Trophy. SBT File Photo
Phil Sobocinski (75) middle guard on Wisconsin's defensive unit, tackles Notre Dame's Nick Rassas (27) after Rassas had received a flat pass in the fourth quarter of the Sept. 26, 1964 Notre Dame-Wisconsin football game. SBT File Photo
Notre Dame halfback Bill Wolski (at center, with helmet against the ground) scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter of Sept. 26, 1964 Notre Dame-Wisconsin football game. Player showing No. 35 at center of photo is Wisconsin fullback Tom Brigham. Tribune file photo
Led by Notre Dame blockers John Atamian (left, No. 66) and Dick Arrington (63), Notre Dame halfback Nick Eddy (47) swings around left end for a short gain early in the first half of the Sept. 26, 1964 Notre Dame game vs. Wisconsin. The Irish routed the Badgers 31-7. SBT File photo
Notre Dame quarterback John Huarte, left, confers with head football coach Ara Parseghian during the Sept. 26, 1964 Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin football game. It was Parseghian's first game as Notre Dame's coach. Tribune file photo
Notre Dame head coach Ara Parseghian walks the sideline during the Sept. 26, 1964 game vs. Wisconsin. Shown at right, No. 85, is wide receiver Jack Snow. SBT File Photo