Friday, November 17, 2006

Bo: 1929-2006

We're sure you've hear by now. Bo Schembechler passed away today at the age of 77. The Free Press has the story here. We'll be back later with a proper tribute, but it's a sad day for the Michigan family.

Bo Schembechler: 1929-2006

Glenn E. "Bo" Schembechler died today. In 1969, he took over a once-proud Michigan program that had been scuffling through its past decade and turned it back into a national powerhouse. In his 22 seasons at the helm, he compiled a 194-48-5 record, good for a 0.794 winning percentage and the most victories of any coach in Wolverine football history. He led his team to ten Rose Bowls, winning two of them. His 1971 Wolverines came within seconds of securing a national championship and his 1973 squad was unbeaten, going 10-0-1, but were kept out of the Rose Bowl by a vote of the Big Ten athletic directors. After retiring from coaching, Bo never really left the University of Michigan family. He kept a desk in Schembechler Hall, he showed up on air at Michigan football games. On the eve of this clash of titans, one of the all-time great Michigan men is with us no more. We offer our condolences to all in Michigan football whose lives he touched and to Bo's own family.

GDZ: I was only 8 years old when Bo stepped down, but I remember it and his last two Rose Bowls. I remember beating USC and then losing to them in successive years. Bo's voice has always been in my ears when it comes to Michigan football, listening to him provide commentary on those WJR broadcasts. The first book I remember my dad buying is BO. He's a legend.

In 1999, I entered the University of Michigan and joined the marching band. During Band Week, we were loaded up morning, noon, and night with marching and music rehearsals. One evening, things went differently. Instead of Elbel Field, we went over to Michigan Stadium. It was the first time I'd ever been inside the Big House at night and I didn't know what to expect next. We were to have a speaker, introduced as a man who needed no introduction. It was Bo. The Man himself had come here to give us his time. I was in awe of him; I couldn't believe he was really there. Much of his talk was lost to me because of this, but I remember him talking about what makes a Michigan man, about what Michigan stands for, about perseverance ("Those Who Stay Will Be Champions"), and about preparation. I was proud to play my own small part in all of this and proud that Bo considered us important enough to address us. The next weekend, the football team won a comeback victory over Notre Dame and we wiped the floor with their band.

CDB: He's left us, and while we can't say it comes as a major surprise, given his recent health issues (or even the fact that he had two quadruple bypass operations), it does not lessen the sadness that comes with the knowledge that we have lost Bo Schembechler, who passed away in Southfield today at the age of 77.

It seems kind of silly, sometimes, when you hear people say things like "I feel like we have lost a member of the family" when talking about people they aren't related to, but in this case, I do truly feel like we've lost a member of the family, for we have lost the spiritual father of the Michigan football family, and for many Michigan faithful, that means we've lost something akin to losing the winged helmet or the color maize. Bo's influence upon the program is second only to Fielding Yost, and Yost wins out only by virtue of the fact that he was here first.

Bo saved Michigan football in many ways. He brought a proud program back from mediocrity and made it something to be proud of once more. He made the games with Ohio State into the Ten Year War and he won five of them. He never had a losing season in 27 seasons as a head coach. He's probably not the coach you'd want in a bowl game, but the fact that he lost so many of them in an era before "everybody goes to a bowl" tells you just how good his Michigan teams were in that they were even in a bowl game. He taught the football team the importance of singing "The Victors" by bringing in a professor from the School of Music at the beginning of each year. He gave Michigan 194 wins over just 48 losses and five ties in his 21 years as the boss. He taught us the idea of "Those who stay will be champions." He only lost a total of ten Big Ten games while at Michigan. He gave us Rob Lytle, Rick Leach, Anthony Carter, John Wangler, Butch Woolfolk, Jim Harbaugh, Jumbo Eliott, Mike Gillette, Jamie Morris, Mark Messner, and Tripp Wellborne and countless others. He gave us 13 Big Ten championships, the most of any Michigan coach. He was the believer in "A Michigan Man", leading him to give the keys to Steve Fisher on the eve of the 1989 NCAA Tournament. He was all of these things and more.

Are there black marks? Sure, the lack of a National Championship might be seen by some as a black mark, but I disagree. The firing of Ernie Harwell when he was Tigers' president, well, that was a mistake, but that was also when he was well out of his element.

Just like when he retired in 1989, it's hard to believe, once again, this time for good. But the memories remain, the traditions remain, the threads that weave him into the tapestry continue to today. After all, who hired Coach Carr in 1980 after stints at Eastern Michigan and Illinois? He's from Bo's tree.

Some might say that they could think of no more fitting tribute to Bo than a win tomorrow over tOhio State. That's the obvious answer and would be wonderful. But Bo's legacy transcends a single game, and the tribute will be to keep the spirit of what Bo brought to Michigan in the hearts of Michigan fans. That's the tribute.

(We'll have more later...however, the best tribute I have yet seen is at MGoBlog. If you weren't weepy before, you will be soon.)

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