"You can't have O'Brien."
"Ara wants him back."
The game this year took on a new dimension: it was nationally televised by ABC-TV in competition with the Kentucky Derby on another network. Beano Cook, the megaphone behind the voices of ABC, stood up in the press box when Ray's defensive line—which compares in size to the Los Angeles Rams's—smothered a play and announced grandly, "There are more horses here than there are at the Kentucky Derby. ABC has done it again."
Parseghian, meanwhile, experienced an unusually relaxed week, for him. He looked healthy. He was well-tanned. He played some golf. He smiled through appointments and interviews. He said he had cut down drastically on speaking engagements and appearances, and after the heavy mid-winter snow he had taken his wife to Hawaii where they had relaxed on the white beaches for nine days. He said he had needed it. Ara is a gung-ho man who does not enter a conversation that he does not speed up. He is capable of some terrific needling if he likes you, and he may even teach you how to putt whether you want him to or not (he plays golf to a four handicap), but he is not an extrovert like, say, the irrepressible Coach Ray, his right arm. Ara has to push himself. If he could be Notre Dame's head coach and No. 1 in the polls without ever answering another question he would like it fine, but he accepts the responsibility with what might be called an intense resignation, knowing it is part of the job.
He has finally come to realize, too, that in the superaccentuated world of Notre Dame football, he cannot please everyone no matter how hard he tries. To facilitate telephone interviews, his publicist, Roger Valdiserri, put Ara's answers to stock questions on tape so that he would not have to answer the same question 4,000 times. "And would you believe it?" says Parseghian. "A radio guy in St. Louis rapped me."
Ara says he finally got over the criticism of "going for the tie" in the 10-10 game with Michigan State, knowing that within himself and among his staff he had done the right thing and wishing in a way that he could invite each critic into his office and explain the circumstances and what went on in his mind and on the sidelines in those final hectic moments. He thinks then they would realize that he had made the correct decision. He also said he had received only three ties for Christmas.
The one thing bothering Ara now is his recruiting program. It has been the leanest year for signing high school boys to play at Notre Dame since Parseghian arrived four years ago. "It was a gradual realization," he said. "Suddenly we woke up in April and realized we hadn't signed many of the boys we were really after. Some of them we were after for two years. Concerned? You're damn right I was concerned. I was alarmed." You can hear those teardrops falling in East Lansing.
If the Notre Dame recruiting is truly bad, it will not show up for two years or more, and it is always possible that Parseghian will be able to recoup next year. Besides, he says, you never know how they're going to turn out. "When I first saw Hanratty and that little O'Brien, I thought, 'Oh, no, what are we getting ourselves in for?" It didn't take lone to find out."