it's hard to believe the degree to which ND changed during his tenure. Football put ND on the map during the first half of the century. Hesburgh understood how to harness that engine to bring up the academic profile of the place. He did make some mistakes in perhaps assuming that ND would eventually let football go as a relic of the past, but if he ever thought these things he changed his mind. He famously once said that "Texas has oil and ND has football."
ND made some bad coaching hires under his watch, but he also made the greatest coaching hire in the school's history in the form of Ara. While we can debate where Ara belongs relative to Rockne and Leahy, Ara took over a much worse situation. Ara took over after literally the worst stretch in ND football history for several years. Leahy, however, followed Layden who was 47-13-3 (.770) and Rockne followed Marks who was 13-0-2 (.933) and Harper who was 34-5-1 (.863). Although it's hard to believe now, back in the early 1960's the idea of ND hiring a Protestant was alien to a lot of people (even though Rockne converted etc., it still was a big deal). And unlike Monk, Ted didn't do it to make a political statement, he did it because Ara could coach football.