SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -Ara Parseghian didn't like the idea of a statue honoring his 11 years as coach of the Fighting Irish being placed at Notre Dame Stadium while he was still alive - until he saw it on Saturday.
``Now that it's here, I like it,'' Parseghian said to the applause of about 200 former players, including Joe Theismann and 1964 Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte, and several hundred fans.
The statue depicts a scene at the end of the 1971 Cotton Bowl, when the Fighting Irish beat top-ranked Texas 24-11 to end the Longhorns' 30-game winning streak. The statue shows Parseghian pumping his right fist in the air as he sits atop the shoulders of three players.
``The statue speaks volumes,'' athletic director Kevin White said. ``It's about team. Coach was always about team.''
Parseghian took over a struggling Notre Dame football program in 1964 and instantly returned it to one of the nation's best programs. He guided the Irish to national championships in 1966 and 1973 and retired after the 1974 season with a 95-17-4 record.
``He had a mythic persona on campus,'' said the Rev. John Jenkins, the university president who was a student at Notre Dame while Parseghian was coach.
Coach Charlie Weis didn't attend the unveiling several hours before the Irish played Michigan State, but talked earlier in the week about Parseghian, saying he's more than a legendary coach and ambassador for Notre Dame.
``He's been much more of a mentor. He's the first person that calls me after a loss. It's easy for people to call you after a win. But he's always there,'' Weis said. ``He's always there to give me advice on the good and the bad. I can't think of anyone that was more deserved to be honored than Ara.''
The sculpture, funded with donations from Parseghian's former players, assistant coaches and student managers, was placed at a gate at the stadium that has been designated the national championship coaches gate. It includes bas relief portraits of the five Notre Dame national championship coaches: Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz.
Parseghian told his former players he hopes that over the years they will stop by and visit the statue.
``Tell your children or grandchildren your own story about being part of this history,'' he said. ``Stop a while and try to listen to the echoes. They'll be here.''

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