This was a few nights ago, at a Notre Dame Quarterback Club outing. Dessert plates had been cleared, coffee had been poured, full tummies had been patted.
There had to be at least 150 people in the banquet room, maybe more. Everyone talking. Some already stealing glances at their watches. Others trying to stifle yawns.
Out of the noise came the sound of a tablespoon hitting a half-full carafe of water. It was time for introductions. Time for The Introduction. Time for quiet.
I can’t remember who said what when Ara Parseghian, all silver hair and golf-course tan, made his way to the podium. But I do remember who jumped from his seat as if he had sat on a whoopee cushion, who stood the longest during the standing ovation, who clapped the loudest as Parseghian soaked in the heartfelt applause.
It was none other than new Notre Dame coach Bob Davie.
This wasn’t a fake, let’s-humor-the-living-legend gesture. Davie was the first one up and the last one down during Parseghian’s entrance. He stood out of respect and awe, but also out of friendship.
Parseghian is 74, more than 30 years older than young Davie. Parseghian won two national championships and 95 of 116 games during his 11 seasons at Notre Dame. Meanwhile, Davie makes his official head coaching debut Sept. 6. Parseghian is beloved. Davie is the Great Question Mark.
Despite the differences in age, experience and twang, Parseghian and Davie have become close. Call it what you want - father-son relationship … mentor-student - but there is the making of a special bond between the two men. You could see it earlier in the evening, when Davie first noticed Parseghian on the patio outside the banquet room. Davie suddenly couldn’t hide a smile, to say nothing of his admiration for the former Irish coach.
“If I’ve gotten close to one person, it would have to be Ara,” Davie said.
Already, Davie says the biggest difference between being an assistant coach and a head coach is that assistants have opinions, head coaches make decisions. He’s right, of course. And no decisions are second-guessed more often than those made at Notre Dame.
So far, Davie has decided that an Irish preseason ranking in the teens sounds about right. He has done away with Camp Holtz, which means no more training camps in Culver, Ind. He has endorsed the idea of moving the first three pep rallies to newly renovated Notre Dame Stadium.
In short, Davie has decided to be himself rather than Knute Rockne Jr. That’s why the Irish offense and defense have been tweaked and shaped to fit Davie’s vision. That’s why quarterback Ron Powlus is back for a fifth season. That’s why Parseghian, who also spoke frequently with Holtz, is such a Davie fan.
“I guarantee you this,” Parseghian told the Quarterback Club members that night, his voice rising with each word. “This is going to be a well-coached, exuberant, enthusiastic team.”