4C - Monday, November 20, 2006
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
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DONN M. FRESARD CHRISTOPHER ZBROZEK JEFFREY BLOOMER
EDITOR IN CHIEF EDITORIAL PAGE EDITORS MANAGING EDITOR
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other signed
articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Coach embodied - and strengthened - football tradition
Michigan's game against Ohio State today marks the
103rd time the two teams have met on the playing
field. It is an important game in its own right, with
both teams undefeated, ranked number one and two. Today's
game is big, but it is not bigger than Michigan tradition - year
after year of winning seasons and sold-out games, fans scat-
tered across the world with their eyes and ears turned to every
football game. Bo Schembechler was that tradition.
or it's the
BY SCOTT BELL
1hose who stay will be champi-
That was Bo Schembechler's
cry to his players when he took over as
head coach of the Wolverines in 1969.
With disciplinarian tactics, Schem-
bechler whittled down a squad that
started with about 140 players to 75
before the 1969 season even started.
Why? Because Bo coached on his
He could have been the nice guy, got-
ten everyone to like him and settled for a
few decent seasons.
Instead, he was the bad guy - when
he needed to be. He earned everyone's
respect and settled for nothing less
After 13 Big Ten titles, 10 Rose Bowl
appearances and the rejuvenation of a
rivalry with Ohio State, I'd say his way
was probably the right way.
Still not convinced? Every player
who entered Bo's system and stayed for
four years left with a Big Ten Champi-
onship ring on his finger.
Bo kept his word: Those who stayed
really did become champions.
His stubbornness wasn't exclusive to
the football field, either.
On and off the field, Bo was Bo, and
he always demanded to do things on his
On Friday, Bo did exactly that: went
out on his terms.
Would you expect anything else?
His personal physician and cardiolo-
gist told him to tone it down during the
fall, because he knew what football did
to the legendary coach.
Even though Schembechler had been
separated from the football program
by title for 17 years, Michigan football
remained in his blood.
On Thursday, Bo's physician wanted
to meet with him about slowing down.
What did Schembechler do instead?
He addressed the Michigan football
team, just two days before the biggest
game of the players' lives.
Why wouldn't he? Bo was Bo - he
always did things his way.
He knew about his health condition.
In fact, in his 1989 biography, he pre-
dicted his fate.
"Will I die from a heart attack? I've
pretty much accepted that," Schem-
bechler wrote. "I'll probably go through
another episode before I'm finished here
But that didn't stop him from living
the only way he knew how: full steam
Of course, Bo ended up being right
when he predicted he'd have another
In late October, he complained of
dizziness during the taping of the same
Even though Schembechler stepped
back from the sidelines when most cur-
rent students were toddlers, the former
head coach's death has touched all Mich-
No one expected that Bo, quite literally
a living legend, wouldn't be around for
the next game or the next season. He has
faced health problems for years, but we
thought him immortal.
Schembechler inherited a football pro-
gram that couldn't draw crowds large
enough to fill the Big House, and he trans-
formed it. Bo's work can be seen in the
football teams that inspire young fans,
in the years-long waiting list for season
tickets and in today's game, already a
classic installment in one of the greatest
rivalries in sports.
Bo's skill as a coach cannot go unno-
ticed; he won 234 games and 13 Big Ten
titles during his times with the team. The
games he helped win boosted the football
program's reputation, but it also reaped
benefits for the entire University. The
football program gives students some-
thing to do Saturday morning, but it is
also one reason why so many students
apply and why so many donors are eager
to contribute to the University.
Off the field, Bo was a dedicated sup-
porter of the University, even after step-
ping down as coach in 1989. After losing
his wife to adrenal cancer, he raised
money to fund cancer research at the
University. Just this semester, he could
be found on campus, attending a course
at the School of Public Policy. And in the
lead-up to today's game, Schembechler
was going nonstop, giving interviews
and holding press conferences for a pub-
lic that clung to his words.
The University has lost not just a
coach, but a symbol. Schembechler's leg-
acy is present on every football Saturday,
from the packed stands to the tailgate
parties that blanket the neighborhoods
surrounding Michigan Stadium. Schem-
bechler himself became an icon, emblem-
atic of the tradition that makes lifelong
fans out of generations of alumni, their
children and their grandchildren.
The Wolverines' last home game of
this season against Ball State was the
200th consecutive game with more than
100,000 fans in attendance at Michigan
Stadium. That streak started back in 1975
under Schembechler's watch, and thanks
in no small part to him, it will continue
for decades. We have lost a man who
embodied Michigan, but we will never
lose the legacy he left behind.
show he was going to be on Friday. He
ended up going to the hospital, and on
Oct. 23, doctors implanted a pacemaker
But Bo fought through that, and less
than a month later, there he was, doing
his duty for Michigan football.
Last Monday, he came to the Junge
Champions Center for the Michigan-
Ohio State press conference.
An athletic department representa-
tive offered him a stool to sit on for his
press conference. Bo rebuffed him, say-
ing, "I don't need this."
And of course, he was right. He didn't
need it - Bo was Bo.
After he addressed the media at the
podium, Bo headed for the door, but
a smaller group of reporters gathered
around him before he could leave. I took
this as my chance to speak with a legend.
So there Bo was, standing in front of
me. He had his car keys in hand (of course
Bo drovehimselftothe pressconference)
and kept sharing memories of Michigan-
Ohio State matchups of the past.
He told all kinds of tales and stories
and appeased the journalists around
him. Like the time he had his water shut
off at the hotel in Columbus the night
before The Game. Or about the game
in Columbus where he was convinced
- and still was on the day of the press
conference - that a field goal ruled no
good was actually good. Or about how
much he respected Woody Hayes and
cherished what the two went through
to make this rivalry what it is today.
There I sat, just awestruck, looking
right at the reason why Michigan foot-
ball is Michigan football. It was some-
thing that will stick with me for the rest
of my life.
As The Game approaches today, it
would be foolish not to put things into
All week long, the only thing people
on campus, and hell, football fans all
over the United States, were talking
about was the game taking place on
But Friday, talk of The Game came to
a complete halt. Discussion shifted to
To the man who was the reason
today's game is The Game.
He was a champion in every sense of
the word.On the field, off the field, he was
the personification of a Michigan Man.
Bo was Bo. That's really all that needs
to be said.
He stayed as long as he could, and he
left on his terms. Now it's time for him
to grab a seat next to Woody for today's
He wouldn't have wanted it any
Scott Bell can be reached
Stories from lives the longtime Michigan coach touched.
The first time I was ever in Michigan
Stadium, I was carrying a bass drum as part
of Band Day. We had to try to fill the sta-
dium with high school kids wearing band
uniforms to make it look filled. And all that
changed in 1969, and it changed because of
a guy named Bo.
I've heard a lot of people pontificate
about what their view of Michigan tradi-
tion is, but Bo is the Michigan tradition. The
reason we're able to fight over how big the
stadium should be and how many people we
can pack in it is all about Coach Bo Schem-
bechler. I had dinner with him Thursday,
and we met with the team twice this week,
and he's still coaching. I don't know what's
going on right now and where he is, but I'm
sure he's still coaching.
David Brandon played football for Michi-
gan under Schembechler. He is CEO of
Domino's Pizza and a mem- ber of the
of Regents. He
ing of the Board of Regents, shortly after
hearing that Schembechler had collapsed.
When I was in fourth grade, few things
were more important to me than Michi-
gan football. Although Bo Schembechler
coached wellbefore I was actively following
football, the legacy he left at Michigan was
When I was 10, his book "Michigan
Memories" came out, and he went on a
book-signing tour that made a stop in my
hometown. I was ecstatic to find out that
this coaching legend would grace my hum-
ble town with his presence. Unfortunately,
his tour stopped at our Barnes & Noble on
Much to my surprise, my dad let me skip
school to go. After more than an hour, I
timidly made my way to the table where he
sat. A wave a terror hit me as I became star-
struck by the man before me.
He could see I was nervous. He shook
my hand and boldly said, "You look a
little young to not be in school. Hope-
fully this is a one-time thing?"
I laughed and promised him I
wouldn't miss any more school
- unless Lloyd Carr decided to
come to town. Bo grabbed my
shoulder and smiled,
asking my dad
if he wanted
to get a pic-
ture of his
son with the old
coach. In that second, I
could honestly envision
myself as a grandson of
Although my time
with Bo was short, I can
tell you he has one of the most
vivid and caring personali-
ties I have ever encountered.
Bo Schembechler, you'll be
Reid is anLSA fresh-
man and a
Although we knew Bo had cheated death
for years, we all seemed to think he'd live
forever. So, as I write this, I'm still a little
Bo was the greatest man I ever met. He
had more energy, more passion, more heart
than anyone I have ever known. He had tre-
mendous pride, but little ego; he hated talk-
ing about himself, and loved talking about
you. He was inspiring just to be around.,
of course, he'll be remembered for
restoring Michigan's tradition. When Bo
took the job at Michigan in 1969, the Ath-
letic Department was deep in the red. They
didn't have much back then, and they had to
get dressed on the second floor of Yost Field
House. They sat in rusty, foldingchairs and
hung their clothes on bent bolts in the wall.
Bo's assistants started complaining.
"What the hell is this?" they said. "We had
better stuff at Miami!" Bo cut that off right
away. "No, we didn't," he said. "See this
chair? Fielding Yost sat in this chair. See
this spike? Fielding Yost hung his hat on
this spike. And you're telling me we hadbet-
ter stuff at Miami? No, men, we didn't. We
have tradition here, Michigan tradition, and
that's something no one else has!"
Thanks to Bo, that tradition is the best in
As for me, I have lost a great friend, some-
one I will never, ever forget. Amazingly,
thousands of people can say the same. He
was that big.
John U. Bacon
Bacon isfinishinga book he wrote with Bo
Schembechler, "Bo's Lasting Lessons: Schem-
bechler Teaches the Timeless Fundamentals of
Leadership," due out by Warner
Books in August of2007.
The first day in class, our professor stood
up and said we had a special guest, a friend
of the public policy program: Bo Schem-
bechler. I turned around in amazement; it
was an honor to be in the same classroom
The first time I really approached him
was the first time he was in class after he
was hospitalized. I asked howhe was doing,
and he told me about his new pacemaker
and told me how he was going to start tak-
ing it easier.
This past Tuesday was his last lecture,
and I sat next to his wife. I asked if he was
going to the game, and he said he would be
watching from home.
When I heard the news today, I didn't
feel like I lost Bo Schembechler, the legend.
I really thought that I had lost a friend.
Grubman is a Kinesiology student enrolled in
Public Policy20l, which Schembechler had
been attending this semester.
During one our first winter
workouts after Bo came to Mich-
igan, he delivered an edict: no
mustaches. This was at a time
when there was social unrest
on college campuses around
the country. It was at the height
of Afros, goatees, mutton-chop
sideburns and, of course, mus-
taches. Bo said if we were wor-
ried about the way we looked, we'd be too
vain to play as a team.
Now, once the mandate was delivered, I
was trying to figure out how I was going to
keep my mustache. I had been growing this
thing since high school, and it had just start-
ed to darken enough so you could see it. So
the next day I went to Bo's office to plead my
case. "Bo," I said, "I have to bring something
to your attention."
Bo said, "Yeah, what's that?"
"It's a black man's heritage to have a
mustache, and you can't ask us to deny our
heritage, especially after all the indignities
we've endured from slavery right up until
today. Bo, you will not find a black man any-
where today that doesn't have one."
Bo didn't say anything but just stared at
me for a minute, trying to figure out if I was
serious or not. And finally, he said, "Get the
(expletive) out of my office." At that point I
didn't know if he bought my story or not.
The next day at practice he called the
team together and started out by saying, "It
has been brought to my attention that it's a
black man's heritage to have a mustache, but
you white guys don't have any heritage, and
I want all mustaches, goatees and mutton-
chop sideburns shaved off."
It would be 20 years before I told him the
Betts played quarterback and safety under
Schembechler in1969 and1970.
The first time I sat with Bo, in 1998, he
asked me what I thought of how messy his
office was, filled floor to ceiling in trophies
and papers. The last time I sat with Bo, in
the Michigan Stadium press box two weeks
ago, he asked me to feel his new pacemaker
- "this thing they're making me wear" -
and to get him an apple cider. I gladly com-
plied with both.
By the time I met Bo, the fire-breathing
coach was gone, given way to a more real-
But he was all human, all the time. The
stories remained, and in his office, he'd get
three or four calls from former players in
just an hour. He'd pick up the phone and
start talking - then realize you were still
sitting there, make a joke and start up with
He just loved making people happy,
because that made him happy.
When I touched that pacemaker, I liter-
ally could feel what made him tick.
And I can't imagine anything will ever
feel like that again.
Snyder is a sports writer for the Detroit Free
Press and a former Daily sports writer.
In 1984 I had a heart attack, and Bo took
the time to send me an autographed picture
and a get-well card. Not many people as busy
as Bo would have taken the time to send get-
well wishes to someone he hardly knew.
Byers lives in Horton, Michigan.
For members of the Michigan Marching
Band, the return to Ann Arbor in the fall
is accompanied by a grueling two weeks of
nonstop rehearsals known as "band week."
By the end of band week my freshman year,
we were exhausted physically and men-
On the last night, our drum major led us
to the outer entrance of the tunnel. Surviv-
ing band week had earned us the privilege
of running through the tunnel for the first
time. When we reached the end of the tun-
nel, the returning members greeted us with
Once we had joined the rest of the band,
band director Jamie Nix announced that he
had one more surprise for us. As he said this,
Bo Schembechler walked out of the tunnel.
Bo spoke to us about how important the
band is to Michigan football. He told us how
much he appreciated the band during his
coaching career at Michigan. Bo told us how
much pride we should have for being able to
play "The Victors" and wear our maize and
I'll never forget the night that Bo Schem-
bechler taught me what it means to be a
Garlinghouse is a Daily editorial cartoonist
and a member of the
Michigan Marching Band.
Bo Schembechler was the most intimi-
dating guy any young sports writer ever
met. If you asked him a stupid question,
you got treated like one of his players; you
did not want to commit the sin of being
That said, Bo was about a lot more than
football. In 1983, at the press lunch after the
Ohio State game, Bo was relaxed and ani-
mated. He broke out a fistful of cigars and
started offering them around the room.
I'm thinking, "I'll get one for my Dad.
He'll think that's cool."
But when the guy to my right - a Daily
writer Bo didn't much like - got ripped for
his age and audacity, I kept my mouth shut
and passed on the stogie.
My father had come to his first college
football game that season - I wrote a col-
umn in the Daily titled "Michigan fans,
please make room for Daddy" - but days
after OSU, he had his second heart attack.
In the hospital, he saw Bo on the Donohue
show and called to say how impressed he
On my return to Ann Arbor, I dropped Bo
a note, rehashing the whole story and ask-
ing if he'd send my dad a cigar. I expected
nothing; Bo never seemed to like Daily
sports writers, and he certainly didn't owe
us any favors.
A week later, I'm entering the athletic
office for an interview, just as Bo is walking
out. He grabs my hand, claps my shoulder
and says, "Jaffer, I just sent your old man
one of my best five-dollar cigars."
There was a handwritten note, too.
But what truly stands out with me is what
happened next, because every time I ran
into Bo - and we did cross paths a few times
- he always asked first about my dad.
Jaffe is a senior columnist for
MarketWatch.com and was a Daily senior
sports editor in 1984.