Schembechler's Death Quiets Game Talk
Friday, November 17, 2006; 8:59 PM
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- What began as a day filled with football talk and parties across Ohio State's campus quickly turned somber.
Former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, one of the most celebrated names in college football, died after he collapsed in a TV studio the day before the No. 1 Buckeyes were to host their storied rival.
"This is an extraordinary loss for college football," coach Jim Tressel said in a statement. "Bo Schembechler touched the lives of many people and made the game of football better in every way. He will always be both a Buckeye and a Wolverine and our thoughts are with all who grieve his loss."
Schembechler was an assistant coach at Ohio State from 1958 to 1962 under legendary Buckeyes coach Woody Hayes. The two remained friends through years of bitterly fought games.
The No. 2 Wolverines arrived at Ohio Stadium on Friday afternoon. Four buses pulled up with the players and cheerleaders. Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, who had been expected to make a statement, did not acknowledge the media waiting for him in a stadium parking lot.
Later, the Michigan players somberly went through their walkthrough, without much conversation. They inspected the field, the third set of sod Ohio State has had this season.
Ohio State will observe a moment of silence for Schembechler before the start of Saturday's game.
Former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce, who succeeded Hayes, spoke Friday at a fundraiser on campus, where people with forlorn faces were stunned at the news.
"The state of Ohio and the state of Michigan has lost a great man, has lost a great coach, and a great dad," said Bruce, choking back tears as he spoke. "In my opinion, Bo Schembechler is the greatest football coach Michigan ever had."
Bruce was asked whether Schembechler and Hayes might be looking down on the game together Saturday.
"Well, yeah, but they'll have different ideas. It'll be a battle, and neither one will go down easy," Bruce said.
Buckeyes fans Sherry Segers, 40, and Rick Hale, 45, were on campus by 6 a.m. Friday to have breakfast and beer with an estimated crowd of 2,500 at the Buckeye Hall of Fame Cafe. But Schembechler's death tempered the party atmosphere on campus, Segers said.
"It was good until about a half hour ago. Now Bo Schembechler dies, I feel sad," Segers said.
The stunning news, however, did not stop early tailgating on campus parking lots, which were packed Friday. The whole campus was buzzing in anticipation of the big game. Cars honked at Buckeyes fans waiting in long lines to get inside bars and restaurants.
Mayor Michael Coleman, who has urged fans to refrain from couch burning and other bad behavior this weekend, said Friday that Schembechler's death makes it even more important for fans to carry themselves with dignity.
Steve Reichert, 27, a Michigan fan from Columbus, was among the early tailgaters who speculated about what the timing of Schembechler's death will mean for the rivalry.
"I think that it will add more fuel to the fire," Reichert said. "The players and coaches certainly have a lot more to play for. But you also have to take a step back. This puts the whole weekend into perspective. How important is this game? We're talking about somebody's life. It's a tragedy."
Schembechler cast a wide shadow over Ohio, where he played football for Miami University and coached the team from 1963 to 1968, when he left for the Michigan job.
On Aug. 16, Schembechler came back to his hometown of Barberton, near Akron, and met with the Barberton High School football team on their practice field.
Jay Glaze, the school's football coach, recalled that the visit meant a lot to his team.
"It was really neat. He's a legend," Glaze said. "His passing is like the passing of an era. His message that day was to just keep working hard, because hard work pays off and that football can be a vehicle to success."
Former Ohio State running back Archie Griffin, the only player to win two Heisman Trophies, remembered that Schembechler recruited him before Woody Hayes.
"Bo was a special, special man, and he's someone whose friendship and camaraderie I treasured," Griffin said in a statement. "Although we were often opponents on the football field, I had the pleasure to develop a relationship with Bo through the years."
"My condolences go out to the Schembechler family," Griffin said. "The hearts of Buckeye Nation are with you all."
The "Hate Michigan Rally" featuring a band named the Dead Schembechlers was renamed the "Beat Michigan Rally." The band, which still planned to perform Friday night at a music hall near campus, said its name was to honor Schembechler as the face of Michigan football.
The music hall's marquee said, "God Bless Bo."
The band decided that all its profits from the Friday night rally would be donated to a charity chosen by the Schembechler family, singer Bo Biafra said.
He said it also would be the last show the band would play under its current name.
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Associated Press writers Meredith Heagney in Columbus and M.R. Kropko in Cleveland contributed to this story.