Bo Schembechler, 77; Stormy Michigan Coach

Bo Schembechler
Bo Schembechler, a seven-time Big Ten coach of the year, compiled a 194-48-5 record at Michigan from 1969-89. (AP - Nick Ut)
By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 18, 2006

Bo Schembechler, 77, the fiery, hard-nosed coach who made the University of Michigan a perennial college football power, collapsed Nov. 17 while taping his weekly football analysis program at a television studio in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, Mich. The attending cardiologist at Providence Hospital in Southfield said, "His heart just stopped."

Mr. Schembechler had a long history of heart trouble and also was stricken during a taping of his show Oct. 20. In recent interviews, he described a device implanted to regulate his heartbeat.

"I'm alive because of medical science," he said. "As my doctors say, I'm a miracle."

He died one day before the annual showdown between his former team and arch-rival Ohio State University. Ohio State is ranked No. 1 in the country, and Michigan is No. 2; both teams have 11-0 records.

During his 21 years as head coach from 1969 through 1989, Mr. Schembechler led his Michigan team to 194 wins, 48 losses and 5 ties, giving him the most victories in school history. His teams won or shared 13 Big Ten championships and played in 17 bowl games, including 10 Rose Bowls.

Mr. Schembechler never won a national championship, but his tough, defensive-minded teams were ranked in the Top 10 in 16 of his 21 seasons at Michigan and finished No. 2 in 1985. During the 1970s, Michigan had the nation's best regular-season record, at 96-10-3. He coached 37 All-Americans, including Dan Dierdorf, Anthony Carter, Butch Woolfolk and Jim Harbaugh.

When Mr. Schembechler retired after 27 years as a head coach -- including six at Miami University of Ohio -- his career record of 234-65-8 gave him the fifth-most wins in college football coaching history. He never had a losing season.

Stalking the sidelines in his blue baseball cap and tinted glasses, Mr. Schembechler often berated referees and his own players and coaches -- all to calculated effect.

"Let's be honest," he once said. "There's something about a temper that affects people. Particularly in football. You can charge up a team, make the referees think, inspire your assistants -- or just plain scare the hell out of somebody. Everything is for a purpose."

In some ways, he resembled his longtime nemesis and early mentor, Woody Hayes of Ohio State. They had known each other since 1949, when Hayes was coach at Miami of Ohio, where Mr. Schembechler was an undersized lineman. Mr. Schembechler later spent six years as an assistant coach under Hayes at Ohio State.

From 1969 to 1978, when Hayes retired, the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry acquired a personal dimension as Mr. Schembechler faced his one-time teacher across the field. Their battles became known as the "Ten Year War," in which Mr. Schembechler prevailed with a record of 5-4-1.

"I must admit I enjoyed my 10 years with Woody more than the other games I played against Ohio State," Mr. Schembechler said in a 2003 interview with the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. "You've got to understand, I was set to beat one and only one team. I only wanted Ohio State. My greatest challenge in coaching was to beat Woody."


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