This is very sad news. The New York Times has reported that Bo Schembechler, coach of the University of Michigan football team throughout my entire childhood, has died of a heart attack. He was 77.
Glen Edward "Bo" Schembechler coached at Michigan from 1969-1989 and remains one of the winningest coaches in college football history. Short-tempered and old-fashioned, he often got ribbed for favoring the running game, "three yards and a cloud of dust" football that rarely shows up on highlight reels. He yelled at players and referees, broke countless headsets in disgust and had two quadruple bypass surgeries while coaching. According to his autobiography (written then with a less-known sportswriter named Mitch Albom), he quit coaching in 1989 at his doctor's and family's insistence. A few more years on the field, he was warned, would mean collapsing and dying on it.
Along with Joe Paterno at Penn State, Mr. Schembechler was one of the last football coaches from an earlier era, when coaching meant less about looking good on television and steriods, endorsements and giant paydays hadn't transformed college football into a pledge class for the pros. Schembechler said he wasn't just in the business of molding star athletes but raising young men. He understood that he entered his player's lives at a moment of great personal transformation, from adolescence to adulthood, and claimed to take that responsibility very seriously.
I believed him. During his 30 years on the job, scandals that ruined programs at the Univeristy of Oaklahoma and Southern Methodist University were rare at Michigan. Athletes caught accepting money from professional scouts before graduation were let go. Every player, whether All-American or third string Safety who never played a down, wore a full uniform with their name on the back of the jersey, received his letterman jacket at the end of the season and ran out onto the field before largest football crowd in America on Saturdays.
Years after he retired, players with distinguished professional careers like Anthony Carter, Jim Harbaugh and Desmond Howard spoke of Bo Schembechler at the best coach they'd ever had, as much a great football mind as a father figure. More importantly, former Michigan football players who had become lawyers, doctors, fathers and grandfathers spoke of their time at Michigan as the best years of their lives, a time they began as boys, left as men and learned the value of hard work, loyalty and respect.
I grew up going to Michigan games, thinking Bo was as permament a fixture in Ann Arbor as The Cube or the Painted Rock. We moved when I was in the 9th grade, right around the corner from Mr. Schembechler and his family. I'd see him in the springtime, riding his lawn tractor or trimming the hedges. I never said hello or thanked him for the memories. I was probably intimidated. Or shy.
Coach Schembechler compiled a 194-48-5 record at Michigan from 1969-89 and was Big Ten Coach of the Year 7 times. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1993. He will be remembered by Michigan fans around the world as a terrific coach and a man of tremendous dignity and class. I'll remember him as the guy who made me, a shrimpy, non-athletic kid who didn't really get football proud to come from Ann Arbor, the university and the town he loved so much.
When Michigan plays Ohio State tomorrow, the first time in the century-long history of their rivalry that the team have been ranked #1 and #2, I'm sure Bo will be watching. And probably throwing chucking his headset in disgust.
I saw this posted today. I think it about sums it up...
No one was more "Blue" than Bo. One of the last from an era of coaches when out of date attributes like "loyalty forever" were sincere. I think Joe Paterno has this at Penn State. You can find fault with their coaching decisions, but hard to find fault with their "character". Something we need a lot more of in this world, versus worshipping the alimighty $. Thanks Bo!!!
Bo was one of the greatest college football coaches to have ever graced the sidelines. And this comes from an Ohio State fan.
Tomorrow boys, can we win one for Bo?