8A - Wednesday, September 10, 2008
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Shafer destined for Michigan ,
By IAN ROBINSON
Daily Sports Editor
When defensive lineman Tim
Jamison left a January meeting
with Michigan coach Rich Rodri-
guez, he ran ,into a familiar face in
what are you
Shafer, who had SHAFER
son to play at
Northern Illinois, was walking into
a job interview with Rodriguez.
Though Jamison wondered what
Shafer was doing in Ann Arbor,
Shafer's arrival shouldn't have sur-
prised anyone. His development as a
football coach has followed a Michi-
gan pipeline, despite lacking a direct
connection to the Wolverines.
The Huskies' head coach during
Shafer's tenure there, Joe Novak,
had played for Bo Schembechler at
Miami (Ohio). Novak and Shafer
turned a Northern Illinois team that
went 3-37 in its first three years into
a top-10 team five years later.
Novak posted the phrase "Those
who stay will be champions" on the
wall of the Huskies' locker room.
The phrase is synonymous with
Michigan football, but those words
were familiar to Shafer long before
he arrived in Ann Arbor.
Even before he could put on pads,
Shafer knew what Schembechler's
mantra demanded. Shafer's dad
coached high school football with
Novak in northeast Ohio.
Shafer credits his father and
Novak for giving him the foundation
of a career in coaching.
After playing quarterback at Bald-
win-Wallace, Shafer tried to break
into coaching. With a recommenda-
tion from Novak, Shafer began as a
graduate assistant on Bill Mallory's
staff atIndiana in 1991.
Mallory worked with Schem-
bechler at Ohio State and took over at
Miami (Ohio) in 1969, when Schem-
bechler left for Michigan.
Even in his first meeting with
Shafer, Mallory noticed the charac-
ter traits that have made Shafer suc-
"Not only the knowledge of the
game, but I knew that he would
relate well to the players," said Mal-
lory, whose 69 wins are the most
for a coach in Indiana history. "Just
a great example for (the players),
being a role model, great teacher of
the game, just possesses a lot of what
you want to see in a coach.
"I expected him to excel."
Mallory knows what it takes to be
a successful coach. He played for Ara
with Woody Hayes,Carm Cozza, Doyt
Shafer's experience at Indiana
opened the door to other coaching
opportunities.In1993, Shafer coached
defensive backs at Rhode Island and
took the same position with Northern
Illinois three years later.
Shafer spent the next eight years
with Novak, who took many ideas
"I know there's a lot of times I
hear Bo Schembechler coming out
of my mouth when I talk, and that's
not a bad thing," Novak said.
In 2000, Shafer was promoted to
Northern Illinois's defensive coor-
dinator. Shafer runs a 4-3 base for-
mation but doesn't allow strategy to
define his defense.
"The scheme is overrated," Sha-
fer said. "What's not overrated is
getting your kids to play with great
effort, great attitude and great
The Huskies' reflected this men-
tality in signature wins over Ala-
bama, Maryland and Iowa State in
2003, allowing Shafer to move up
the coaching ladder.
In 2004, he coached the second-
ary at Illinois before taking the
defensive coordinator position at
Western Michigan. In his two years
in Kalamazoo, he coached with one
of his best friends, former Wolver-
ine Steve Morrison, and helped turn
around the Broncos, from 1-11 his
first season to 8-5 in his second year.
That season, the defense led the
nation in interceptions and sacks.
That performance caught the
attention of another Michigan alum,
Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh.
In one season under Shafer, the
Cardinal defense improved in every
statistical category and helped Stan-
ford upset then-No. 1 Southern Cali-
Michigan defensive coordinator Scott Shafer's defense has held opponents to just
nine points in its past six quarters of play.
Despite the apparent rift that
arose between Harbaugh and Mich-
igan last year, Shafer says Harbaugh
still speaks very highly of his alma
"He understood why I would
be attracted to Michigan - for the
same reason he was attracted to
Michigan," Shafer said. "He was
happy myself and my family would
get a chance to experience some
of the things he did in his years at
Just minutes after Shafer told his
13-year-old son, Wolfgang, about
his new job at Michigan, Wolfgang
called back and sang his dad "The
Wolfgang was quick to embrace
the Michigan program, one Shafer
has embraced his whole life.
Grab hold of one of these full QWERTY keyboard r
Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez has faced adversity in his first season,
but legendary coach Bo Schembechler had similar struggles in 1969.
For the past 271 days, the
length of Rich Rodriguez's
tenure as the Wolverines'
one word has-
than any other
in the hype
analysts have REID
tain about the
returning talent and the imple-
mentation of Rich Rod's spread
scheme. Fans have been uncer-
tain about abandoning 40 years
of tradition and welcoming a new
regime. Hell, even the mystique of
Michigan Stadium and the famed
maize-and-blue uniform have
been uncertain coming into the
But while it seems the Wolver-
ines are wading deep into unchart-
ed waters, their current situation
isn't nearly as unfamiliar as some
Detroit Free Press, columnist
Michael Rosenberg's new book,
"War As They Knew It," chron-
icles the 10-year battle between
Bo Schembechler and Ohio. State
coach Woody Hayes, the culture
on both campuses and the politi-
cal turmoil across America during
that time. Both hardcore Michigan
fans and the casual college football
watchers will be engrossed by the
book and its fascinating stories.
The first chapter really got me
thinking, specifically, what it had
to say about Bo's inaugural year as
First, Bo had players quit in dra-
OK, none left Ann Arbor for
Columbus - which I'm sure would
have been seen as a life-sentence-
worthy crime by the ol' coach -
but Bo had a bumpy first few weeks
In one of my favorite stories
in "War As They Knew It," John
Prusiecki quit the team, and on
his way out of the Wolverines'
locker room, wrote "... And those
who leave will be doctors, lawyers,
engineers, architects, bishops,
generals, statesmen and captains
of industry," under Bo's famous
"Those Who 'Stay Will Be Cham-
The only difference between
that and the few players who fled
once Rich Rod was introduced as
Michigan's head coach?Bo's defec-
tions weren't blown out of pro-
portion by the local and national
Also, Bo didn't realize how
drastic a leap Miami (Ohio) to
Michigan would really be.
When I read about this, I
couldn't help but be amused.
Schembechler felt pressure to
win at Michigan 40 years ago? I'd
love to see howhe would handle the
heat now. I dare anyone to argue
the must-win pressure on the field
and the personal judgment a coach
faces off of it were heavier in 1969
than they are in 2008.
I don't know about anyone
else, but if I faced the immedi-
ate onslaught of negativity and
judgments upon taking a job as
Rodriguez did when he came
to Michigan, I would seriously
reconsider the decision to leave my
old job. Especially one as cushy as
Rodriguez's West Virginia gig.
I'm not saying Rodriguez didn't
understand the high-profile nature
of the Michigan job - just that
there's no way he could have pre-
dicted he would have been greeted
the way he was.
Lastly, Bo wasn't perfect right
off the bat.
Everyone remembers Bo's first
Ohio State game - no one seems to
recall that the year started outwith
a 4-2 record and a loss to Michigan
State. Or that a few players nearly
mutinied after that game, going
into Bo's office and asking him to
let up in practice.
Things aren't perfect right
now. But they weren't 40 years
ago when Schembechler took over
either. Rich Rod just needs time.
-Reid can be reached at
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