The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom
Monday, November 20, 2006 - 5C
In lieu of sideline,
coach in classroom
As a coach, Bo Schembechler
spent his career teaching college
students howto play football. This
semester, Schembechler relin-
quished his role as instructor and
became a student.
The legendary coach enrolled
in a systematic thinking class, one
of the prerequisites for the Gerald
Ford School of Public Policy's new
bachelor of arts degree.
The course is taught by former
University provost Paul Courant.
"He really enjoyed the class,"
Courant said Friday. "He was
always so proud of how good the
students were, how interested they
Schembechler didn't attend dis-
cussion sections or take quizzes and
exams, but he did make it to most of
Though Schembechler didn't
activelyparticipate inthe class,
students were still well aware of his
"The students in my class never
knew him as a coach, but they knew
who he was and they were pleased
to have him there," Courant said.
"As long as people remember Michi-
gan, they'll remember Bo."
Barber of 37 years
bids farewell to Bo
Once a month for the past 37
years, Bo Schembechler went to
the Coach & Four barber shop on
State Street. Every time he walked
through the door, his friend Gerry
Erikson was there to cut his hair.
On Friday, Erikson remembered
Schembechler as a great guy who
was always eager to talk about his
But even after a 37 years, Schem-
bechler would never discuss foot-
ball tactics with Erikson.
"He would never tell me any-
thing important about football,"
Erikson said. "He said that if he did,
it would spread around the whole
Schembechler was Coach &
Four's most famous customer.
"One time I told him that he was
responsible for half my business,"
Erikson said. "Everyone wants to
get their hair cut by Bo's barber."
Erikson cut Schembechler's hair
for the last time just before he was
hospitalized and fitted with a device
to regulate his heartbeat three
He said Schembechler had an
indomitable passion for the game.
"If his heart had held up, he
would still be (Michigan's) coach,"
& Dealing with the
press not a strength
Bo Schembechler believed in
strong blocking. Once, he applied a
literal interpretation of that prin-
ciple to the press.
During the 1979 season, Schem-
bechler shoved Daily sports editor
Dan Perrin. Perrin, interviewing
Schembechler with a tape recorder,
asked the coach about the Wolver-
ines' dismal kicking record.
Schembechler threw the micro-
phone down and pushed Perrin in a
hallway outside a press luncheon.
"Don't try to make me look bad,
you understand, son, or I'll throw
you the hell out of Michigan foot-
ball," Schembechler could be heard
on the tape telling Perrin.
When questioned about the
incident later, Schembechler told a
reporter, "I don't even remember;
you know these kids."
From the gridiron
to the diamond
Bo Schembechler cast a massive
shadow over the world of sports in
Michigan. But his presence wasn't
confined to football.
After retiring as the Wolverines'
head coach and athletic director in
1990, Schembechler surprised many
by signing on to become the presi-
dent of the Detroit Tigers.
"Most people in baseball found it
alittle difficult to understand (why
Bo was hired), and I might have
been one of them," said Joe McDon-
ald, former Tigers vice president of
player procurement and develop-
ment. "But I soon understood why."
Schembechler took a serious
interest in the minor-league devel-
opment system. He upgraded many
minor-league facilities, building
weight rooms and batting cages to
help the minor-leaguers improve.
"Bo loved athletes," McDonald
said. "When he spoke to a player, he
had this tremendous ability to bond
with him, regardless of the sport."
The wa Bo was
In December 1988, a year before Bo would announce his retirement, a Daily sports editor profiled
Bo as his coaching career hit its final stretch.
By ADAM SCHEFTER
Bo Schembechler has a heart the size of a
football. A heart that makes people feel spe-
cial. A heart that can make anyone laugh.
As good as his heart has been to others, it
hasn't always been so cooperative to him.
On the morning of his first Rose Bowl, in
1970, Schembechler had a heart attack.
Then, last December, Schembechler went
to the hospital for stress tests. He spent the
night. When he woke up in the morning, he
put on his sweatsuit and had his wife, Millie,
pick him up.
As he was ready to leave, Schembechler
felt something he hadn't felt in 18 years. He
started to sweat. He had to lie down, and he
told Millie, "get the doctors."
When the doctors arrived, Schembechler
gave the word. "Sedate me now because I
don't want to think about it," he said.
Upon awakening from heart surgery, his
mind wandered like a baby lost in a depart-
ment store. Would he see his family again?
Would his family be taken care of if he
couldn't go on? Would he live?
He lay in his bed, listening to the radio.
Then it happened. He heard his doctor say
the magic words: "He'll coach again."
And there was joy in Mudville, for the
mighty Bo would go on.
"It was like being born again," Schem-
bechler said, laughing. "He couldn't have said
anything thatwould have made me happier."
But there's something wrong with just say-
ing, "He'll coach again." Schembechler has
friends. He has a wife. He has four sons. And
he'll coach again?
He would live, and he would continue to
share that wonderful heart of his.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Schembechler shares a special relation-
ship with his sons: Chip, 32; Geoff, 31; Matt,
29; and Shemy, 19. If you think he has con-
servative values as a coach, imagine him as a
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, Schem-
bechler's youngest son, Shemy, came home
from school at Miami (Ohio). As soon as he
walked in the door, the senior Schembechler
jumped on his son about his hair. He demand-
ed it be cut. The next day, Shemy went to the
barber. When he came home with the sides of
his head shaven and his hair still long in the
back, his father was baffled.
"My girlfriend wanted me to get my hair
that way," Shemy said.
"He got one of those crazy haircuts,"
Schembechler said, shaking his head.
When Schembechler was told Shemy did
it for his girlfriend, he joked: "Girlfriend? Ex-
girlfriend. Ex. I spoke to him last night, and
they broke up. He don't have any girlfriends.
He thinks they're his girlfriends. They think
he's a friend. Not very worldly, my son is. I
gotta have a talk with him about that. The
There's one thing that will never change
about Schembechler: his character. He's a
dinosaur when it comes to ethics and morals.
His stature on the football field looms even
Former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler with his team in August 1976 at Michigan Stadium.
He's full of advice and anecdotes for his
players. One thing he always tells them is to
never go out past midnight. He claims noth-
ing good ever happens after that time.
Then there is the Labor Day ritual when his
troops assemble for practice. Schembechler
belts out like a drill sergeant: "Men, today is
Labor Day, and we are going to celebrate. By
That's one way to spend the holiday.
But he tells more than funny stories.
Schembechler is fun-loving. Yes, the man
who parades the sidelines and screams and
yells and throws his headset is fun-loving.
He won't go to happy hour with his team,
but Schembechler stages his own little bit of
entertainment prior to each weekend.
Every Friday in practice, Schembechler
lines up with the offensive team and plays
quarterback. He throws one pass. One week
he got bored and lined up as tailback.
But Schembechler wasn'tsatisfied with his
new position. He went in motion. Then he did
a down-and-out pattern into the endzone.
Motion? Down and out? It gets better.
Quarterback Michael Taylor lofted the ball
toward Schembechler. The throw was short,
is. He dove and did a double somersault, his
hat flying off his head. He lay on the ground,
The players froze. Silence. Schembechler
was down. All eyes were on the 59-year-old
coach who had undergone two heart opera-
tions and who had used all his acrobatic skills
to catch a pass.
And Schembechler got up. And he let out a
loud laugh. And his team laughed with him.
ANYTHING FOR BO
It's rumored Schembechler works 16-hour
days, seven days a week.
"No, that's a lie," he insisted. "But I spend
time on my job every single day of the year.
Even if I'm on vacation."
Vacation? What would this guy do on vaca-
tion? Play football with his wife and kids?
"I like to do other things," Schembechler
said. "I've taken my family rafting down the
Salmon River in Idaho. I've been to the India-
napolis 500 the past six years. I went to the
Kentucky Derby for the first time last year.
That Derby is wild.
"I'm a golfer, a terrible one, but I got all
that nice equipment, new balls and all that
stuff. When I retire, I'm going totake up golf-
ing seriously and shoot in the 80s if it's the
last damn thing I do. Right now, I'm in the
100s, but I promise you, I've got enough ath-
letic skills to shoot in the high 80s.
"I'd like to go hunting, but that's during
football season, and how in the hell does a
coach have time to do it?"
Schembechler wouldn't have to be in the
woods long. He would scream at some moose
to get by his side. He would grab him by the
antlers and say, "Son, I want you hanging in
my livingroom." And the moose,like any ofhis
players, would gallop off to Schembechler's
car, fast as it could, ready tobe stuffed.
Anything for Bo.
FROM THE HEART
When Bear Bryant left Alabama, the Crim-
son Tide fell into an identity crisis. After
Woody Hayes left Ohio State, the Buckeyes
suffered the same fate. I have to think once
Schembechler leaves Michigan, the air of
invincibility that goes along with Michigan
football will be no more.
I don't know how many people realize this.
Heis the drive inside each player whotakes
the field to represent Michigan. He is the man
that keeps the Michigan program as clean as
any in the country. He is Michigan football.
But he's more than a football program.
He's aspecial person. He's stared death in the
face and punched it in the eye. He's given to
others who haven't been as fortunate. He's a
family man - a damn good one.
"Hey, not that I've been through a lot," he
said, "but when you're feeling good and doing
what you want to do., and you have a great
family and a great group of guys and a nice
coaching staff and a great school, what else
could you want?"
And that's coming straight from Bo's
- This article, in longer form, originally
ran in The Michigan Daily on Dec. 9,1988.
From page 1
"For being so gruff, the guy loved
people and he always saw their
potential," said author John Bacon,
a professor of American culture and
history who has been collaborating
with Schembechler on a book.
Glenn E. Schembechler was born
on April 1,1929 in Barberton, Ohio. He
got the name Bo from his sister, who
couldn't pronounce the word "broth-
er." It was his mother who instilled a
love of sports in him, Baconsaid.
As a seventh and eighth grader, he
suited up for his town's high school
football team because his grade
school didn't have a squad.
Years later, Schembechler would
come home after Michigan games
to face the only critic he listened to:
She would be waiting at the kitch-
en counter for him with a bottle of
Chivas Regal scotch, Bacon said.
Schembechler went on to play col-
lege football at Miami (Ohio), where
he started at offensive tackle. Late in
his career, he played under Woody
Hayes, then Miami's coach. Hayes
went on to coach at Ohio State.
After graduating from Miami in
1951, Schembechler signed on as a
graduate assistant under Hayes, who
had taken over the head coach's job
at Ohio State. There, Schembechler
earned his master's degree in physi-
Following a tour of duty in the
U.S. Army and brief assistant coach-
ing stints at Presbyterian College
in South Carolina, Bowling Green
and Northwestern, Schembechler
returned to Columbus as one of
Hayes's assistants. He served under
Hayes for five more seasons before
being hired as Miami's head coach in
1963. Schembechler led the Redskins
(now the Redhawks) to a 40-17-3
record in six seasons with the team.
While coaching at Miami, Schem-
bechler received job offers from
Tulane, Vanderbilt and Pittsburgh,
Bacon said. Schembechler turned
them all down. His sights were set
on another job.
"He was utterly passionate about
Michigan," Bacon said. "He knew
as a kid growing up in Ohio about
Michigan's great tradition."
In 1969, Michigan Athletic Direc-
tor Don Canham needed someone
to rebuild a program that had floun-
dered during Bump Elliott's 10-year
Canham knew he had found the
right man to return Michigan to its
"His personality just struck me
right away," Canham told The Mich-
igan Daily in 2004. "I hired him 15
minutes after we began to talk. That
was the turning point in my career
as athletic director."
Schembechler didn't take long
to cement his legacy at Michigan.
In his first season, the Wolverines
came into their matchup with Ohio
State as 17-point underdogs against
an undefeated Buckeye squad.
But the oddsmakers didn't
account for the new man on the
"He knew which guys to kick in
the pants and which guys to pat on
the head," Bacon said. "He was the
single best motivator college foot-
ball has ever seen."
"If you were in his office delivering
water jugs or sandwiches, he would
motivate you before you left," he said.
In practice the week before the
game, Schembechler taped "50-14"
on the back of his players' helmets
to remind them of their devastating
defeat a year earlier.
The Wolverines came out of the
tunnel at Michigan Stadium with a
new determination. They shocked
Ohio State with a 24-12 win, earning
Michigan its first trip to the Rose
Bowl since 1964.
That win set off what came to be
known as the Ten-Year War, a series
of bitterly fought games between
Schembechler and Hayes, his for-
mer mentor. Those years intensified
the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry,
making it one of the most legendary
in American sports.
Over his coaching career, Schem-
bechler continued to build his legacy
as a Michigan icon. His toughness
was unquestioned, his fairness
universally praised and his temper
legendary. Schembechler fostered
a sense of Michigan pride in his
teams. He focused on developing his
players as more than just linemen or
"When we talk about the teams
and how he prepared us to play,
we also look at how he got us pre-
pared to go on after football," said
Betts, who played quarterback and
safety under Schembechler in 1969
and 1970. "When you look around
the country today at the guys who
played for him, there's something
very, very special about them"
On the field, his coaching style
was simple: Michigan would play
hard-nosed football, grinding out
wins with tough power running and
an unshakable defense.
The formula worked.
Schembechler retired as head
coach after the 1989 season with
a .796 career winning percent-
age, having brought Michigan to 17
bowls. Schembechler's Wolverines
never had a losing season. With 234
career wins, Schembechler ranks
10th all-time among Division I-A
The only blemish on Schem-
bechler's otherwise sterling
coaching resume was his team's
performance in bowl games.
Schembechler's Michigan squads
went 5-12 in bowls and never won a
But in the rivalry against Ohio
State, Schembechler's teams put up
a strong 11-9-1 record - a stark con-
trast to his predecessor Elliott's 3-7
record against the Buckeyes.
The Wolverines' current streak
of 100,000-plus fans in attendance
began during Schembechler's ten-
ure at a game against Purdue on
The phrase "Those who stay will
be champions" - which Schem-
bechler coined in his first season as
Michigan coach - remains an iconic
part of Michigan lore.
Schembechler also held the reins
as Michigan's athletic director from
1988-1990. In 1989, he made the
controversial decision to replace
Flowers were placed outside BoSchembechler Hall Friday afternoon.
basketball coach Bill Frieder after
Frieder announced he would be
leaving to take a job at Arizona State
"A Michigan man will coach
Michigan, not an Arizona State
man," Schembechler said at the
That Michigan team went on to
win the national championship.
Until his death, Schembechler
remained a constant presence on
Michigan's campus. An honor-
ary member of the senior society
Michigamua, he maintained an
office in Schembechler Hall, which
was named for him, and frequently
spoke to Michigan's athletes.
After his first wife, Millie, suc-
cumbed to adrenal cancer in 1992,
the former coach helped to raise mil-
lions of dollars for cancer research at
the University. An endowed profes-
Medical School also bears her name.
"This is a tremendous shock and
an irreplaceable loss for the Univer-
sity of Michigan family," University
President Mary Sue Coleman said
Friday. "Bo Schembechler embod-
ied all that is best about Michigan
- loyalty, dedication and the drive
for ever-greater excellence."
This year, Schembechler audited
a class at Michigan's Ford School of
Public Policy, named for his friend,
University alum and former U.S.
President Gerald Ford, who played
football at Michigan.
"Bo Schembechler was an out-
standing citizen in every respect,"
Ford said in a written statement.
"He was a dear friend of ours and
will be greatly missedby his numer-
ous friends. It is a great loss to the
University of Michigan in particu-
lar and football in general."
Current head coach Lloyd Carr
will carry his memory into battle
"We have lost a giant at Michigan
and in college football," Carr said in
a statement Friday. "Personally, I
have a lost a man I love."
Schembechler leaves behind his
wife Kathy and sons Glenn, Matt
- James V. Dowd and
contributed to this report.