Michigan coaching legend dies

At 77, former coach remained intense about Wolverines football, Ohio State rivalry

Bo Schembechler 1929-2006

November 18, 2006|By Erik Boland | Erik Boland,Newsday

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Bo Schembechler kicked off the biggest week of the biggest game in the history of the biggest rivalry in college football with a news conference Monday.

If time had doused the fire in Schembechler, who had not stalked the Michigan sideline since 1989, it didn't show. He touched on a variety of subjects, most of which revolved around his beloved Wolverines, ranked No. 2 in the country, who were preparing for today's colossal showdown with No. 1 Ohio State at Ohio Stadium.

He was clearly as fiery and passionate about Michigan in 2006 as he was in 1986 or 1976, a picture of intensity until his death.

Glenn "Bo" Schembechler, who won or shared 13 Big Ten titles in 21 seasons at Michigan and who, along with his mentor, former Ohio State coach Woody Hayes, helped take an already fierce rivalry to epic proportions, died yesterday morning. Schembechler collapsed at 9:25 a.m. before the taping of a local television show in Southfield, Mich. He was pronounced dead at the hospital at 11:42 a.m. He was 77.

Schembechler died of heart failure, brought on by the heart disease he had battled the last 40 years, doctors said.

Schembechler became the Michigan coach in 1969 and remained for 21 years, compiling a 194-48-5 record. He led the Wolverines to 17 bowl games, including 10 Rose Bowl appearances, and 17 top-10 finishes in the polls.

"It's hard to even put into words what he meant to the university," said Washington Redskins tackle Jon Jansen, a former Wolverine. "He took Michigan football to another level. They had a great tradition and he really elevated it and brought it into what it is today."

Will his death impact the game tomorrow?

"I'm sure the team, not that they needed any more to play for, but it will add a little bit of emotion to it. It was unfortunate that he didn't get to see the game, but I'm sure that he'll have a good view now."

Said backup Redskins quarterback Todd Collins, who came to Ann Arbor the year after Schembechler retired, "It's pretty ironic, the day before the biggest game."

"Everybody who played for him, they not only liked playing for him, they loved him as a man. A couple of years ago we had a reunion of football players and guys who had played for him 20 or 30 years ago came back mostly to see him."

Schembechler won what he said earlier this week was the biggest game of his career in his first season, a 24-12 upset victory over defending national champion Ohio State, undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country and winner of 22 consecutive games.

Schembechler was born April 1, 1929, in Barberton, Ohio. He attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he played for Hayes from 1949 to 1950. Schembechler graduated in 1951 and went to graduate school at Ohio State, where Hayes had been hired earlier that year. Schembechler served as a graduate assistant to Hayes in 1952 and eventually took a variety of coaching positions over the next several years. Schembechler rejoined Hayes' staff at Ohio State in 1958 and spent the next five seasons in Columbus.

Schembechler took the head-coaching position at Miami University in 1963 and compiled a 40-17-3 record over the next six seasons, adding his name to Miami's exalted "Cradle of Coaches." His success at Miami earned Schembechler the Michigan job in 1969.

The upset victory over Ohio State that first season sparked what would become known over the next decade as the Ten Years War with Hayes at Ohio State. Schembechler won more games at Michigan than any other coach.

Erik Boland writes for Newsday. Sun reporter Don Markus contributed to this article.

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