If Notre Dame claims its first football national championship in a generation tonight in Miami, the victory will resonate with many ESPN employees with Fighting Irish ties.
ESPN Radio host Mike Golic and SportsCenter anchor Hannah Storm’s shared enthusiasm for their alma mater is well chronicled. Golic, of course, has two sons on the current Irish squad. ESPN college football analyst Lou Holtz coached at Notre Dame for 11 seasons and in 1988 led the Irish to their last national football title.
But an Irish victory over Alabama in the Discover BCS National Championship Game (tonight, 8:30 ET, ESPN, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio & ESPN3D) would have special meaning to another ESPN employee.
Amara Parseghian is a niece of legendary Irish head coach Ara Parseghian, who after winning two consensus national championships in South Bend worked as an ABC Sports color commentator from 1975-81.
Amara, a 2009 Notre Dame grad, continues her family and school’s ties to ESPN/ABC as a production assistant who works primarily on SportsCenter.
“We do all the in-depth montages and promotions for SportsCenter. I did do a couple of promotions for the ND-Bama game,” said Parseghian, 25, who joined ESPN in August 2010. “I get the music, edit the video. I basically put together short ‘movie trailers.’”
She hasn’t seen Uncle Ara since the 2011 football season. But she was a regular visitor to his South Bend home when she was an undergrad Communications major at Notre Dame.
She’s still amazed about where and why the Parseghian name registers.
“Since I’ve been at ESPN, it’s been probably been a once-a-day thing,” she said. “It’s been funny, though. I’ve had a couple of experiences where people ask, ‘Are you related to. . . ?’ and I’d automatically assume they were talking about [Uncle Ara]. But they’ll ask about somebody completely different.”
Her brothers Nathan and Jared were kickers at Miami of Ohio, where Ara also attended college and learned the game as an assistant to Woody Hayes in 1950.
Amara has plenty of ties to Notre Dame lore.
Ara Parseghian led the Irish to Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl victories over Alabama in 1973 and ’74, respectively. He coached at Notre Dame from 1964-74.
Her father Tom was a Holy Cross Junior College roommate of Dan “Rudy” Ruettiger, the famed Notre Dame walk-on football player and subject of the 1993 film Rudy. (See gallery above.)
And Amara Parseghian was among the many fans who stormed the Notre Dame Stadium field Oct. 15, 2005 when the Irish seemingly had secured a victory over top-ranked USC. But the officiating crew ruled the game had not ended, that the Trojans had time to run a play from the Irish 1-yard-line, and fans had to return to their seats.
“All of the sudden, everybody’s yelling, ‘Get back up in the stands,'” she recalled. “It was chaos. It was like [a scene from the movie] Titanic.”
When the game resumed, USC stars Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush combined on the legendary “Bush Push” play to help USC secure a 34-31 victory.
So what’s her prediction for the BCS title game?
“I’m so nervous about this game. I think it’s going to be a low-scoring game,” she said, “but I think Notre Dame will win.”
Below: See ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi interview Parseghian, Holtz and current Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly about leading the Fighting Irish.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkTGhyMLCqo&w=615&h=390]