Glenn Edward "Bo" Schembechler Jr. (April 1 1929 – November 17 2006) was an American college football coach best known as the head coach at the University of Michigan, where he coached the Wolverines from 1969 through the 1989 season. Schembechler won a total of 234 games; only Joe Paterno and Tom Osborne have recorded 200 victories in fewer games. A consummate "coach's coach", Schembechler combined superb technical command of the game with a fiery disposition. Schembechler's Michigan teams were known for their fundamentally sound, physical, and fierce style of play. Under his watch, the Wolverines traditionally featured strong defense, dominating offensive lines, and a power-running attack. In the words of one commentator, Schembechler coached a "remorseless and punishing" brand of football. If he perceived a weakness in the opponent, his teams hammered at it time and time again. Though somewhat combative during games -- he was prone to sideline outbursts -- he was generally regarded by his peers as having great personal integrity. He coached at the major conference level for twenty-one seasons without a hint of scandal.
Schembechler attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where he played football under two legendary, and completely different, coaches. Sid Gillman, his first coach at Miami, was an innovative offensive mind and one of the fathers of the modern passing game. His concepts helped to form the foundation for football's West Coast offense. Prior to Schembechler's last season, Gillman departed to become head coach at the University of Cincinnati. He was replaced by the renowned and fiery Woody Hayes, who could not have been more unlike Gillman. Hayes embraced the run, eschewed the pass, and demanded tough, physical play from his linemen. Rather than innovation, Hayes stressed repetition — he wanted his players to run each play flawlessly. Over the next forty years, Hayes' impact on his young protege was clearly evident. Schembechler's teams at Michigan were molded in the spirit of Hayes' Ohio State teams.
Schembechler graduated from Miami in 1951 and earned his master's degree at Ohio State University in 1952 while working as a graduate assistant coach under Hayes, who had become OSU's head coach. After a tour of duty in the U.S. Army, Schembechler served as an assistant at Presbyterian College in 1954, followed by a year as freshman coach at Bowling Green. When Schembechler's former college teammate Ara Parseghian, Hayes' successor at Miami University, was hired as head coach at Northwestern in 1956, Schembechler joined him and spent the next two seasons there as a defensive assistant. In 1958, Hayes hired Schembechler to serve again on his staff at Ohio State. Schembechler spent five more years at Ohio State and became one of Hayes' most trusted assistants. During that time the two cemented their lifelong friendship. They also engaged in famously explosive arguments, going so far as to throw chairs at one another during film sessions . Schembechler was fond of recounting the number of times that Hayes "fired" him, only to send a graduate assistant to fetch him after tempers had calmed.
Schembechler, Hayes, Parseghian, and several of their "Cradle of Coaches" compatriots are the subject of the book Fields of Honor, written by coach John Pont's niece, Sally Pont.
Schembechler's greatest victory came in his first season, when he led the Wolverines to an upset victory over a standout Ohio State team coached by his old mentor, Woody Hayes. Hayes' Buckeyes dominated the series during the late 1950s and for most of the 1960s as Michigan fielded a number of uncharacteristically mediocre teams. In 1968, the year before Schembechler became head coach, Hayes made it clear how far Michigan had fallen behind its traditional rival, when the Wolverines lost 50-14. At the end of the game, Hayes decided to pursue a two-point conversion rather than a simple kick for an extra point. Legend has it that when Hayes was asked why he "went for two," he responded "Because I couldn't go for three." The embarrassment of that outcome set the stage for the 1969 rematch.
In 1969, the Buckeyes came into the game as defending national champions and 17-point favorites with the top ranking in the country and a 22-game winning streak. Hayes' 1969 squad included five first-team all-Americans. But Schembechler's 7-2 Wolverines dominated a team Hayes later considered his best, beating Ohio State 24-12. In a single afternoon, Schembechler and his charges resurrected Michigan's grand but moribund football tradition and returned the program among college football's elite, a perch it has maintained ever since. Both Schembechler and Hayes, who remained personal friends until Hayes' death in 1987, agreed it was Hayes' best team and Schembechler's biggest victory. Michigan's win over Ohio State in 1969 is considered to be one of the greatest upsets in college football history and the most significant win for a Michigan team ever.
After that glorious inaugural, the Wolverines and Buckeyes proceeded to engage in a fierce "Ten Year War" that elevated an already storied Michigan-Ohio State rivalry into one of college football's greatest annual grudge matches. For ten years the two dominated the Big 10, splitting ten conference titles between them and finishing second eight times. They were so dominant that the Big Ten earned a nickname of Big Two, Little Eight during that era. After a decade of memorable on-field stratagems, sideline antics, and locker room psychological ploys, the two coaches came out almost dead-even, Schembechler holding a slim 5-4-1 advantage.
Schembechler's tenure at Michigan was also notable for the renewal of Michigan's rivalry with Notre Dame. Despite the fact that the two schools are located within 200 miles of one another and ranked first/second in both total wins and winning percentage in college football, the two schools had not played each other since the 1940s. The resurrection of the rivalry was facilitated by Schembechler's close friendship with Ara Parshegian, Notre Dame's coach at the time of Bo's arrival. Ironically, Bo never had a chance to coach against his former mentor -- scheduling commitments prevented the series from resuming until 1978, after Parshegian had left Notre Dame and was succeeded by Dan Devine.
Despite Schembechler's success during the regular season, he was less successful in bowl games. His overall record was 5-12, which includes a 2-8 record in the Rose Bowl. Perhaps it was an omen that he suffered his first of two heart attacks the night before his team's first Rose Bowl appearance. The Wolverines lost to the University of Southern California the next day while he was hospitalized. Schembechler's Michigan teams went on to lose their next six bowl games before winning five of their last ten.
Following the 1980 season, Schembechler gained the first of his two Rose Bowl victories by beating the University of Washington. The 1980 Michigan team featured the talents of Anthony Carter, a three-time consensus All-American. In 1980 Michigan stumbled early in the season, losing two of its first three games. As a result of the two losses, Michigan was eliminated from consideration for college football's mythical national championship, finishing 4th in the end-of-season polls. But Schembechler maintained that his first Rose Bowl champions were the country's best team by season's end. They did not allow a touchdown over the course of their last five games, giving up just 9 points total during that stretch.
Perhaps spurred by Carter's success, Schembechler's teams began to pass more during the 1980s. But Schembechler never completely shed his image as a run-first offensive coach. At the same time, his teams continued to enjoy consistent success throughout the decade. Jim Harbaugh, a future NFL All-Pro quarterback and current head coach at Stanford, led Schembechler's 1985 team to a 10-1-1 record, a 27-23 win over Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl, and a #2 ranking in the final polls, the highest finish ever for one of Schembechler's teams. Schembechler's last two teams went to the Rose Bowl, splitting two games with USC.
Schembechler retired from coaching after the Rose Bowl in 1990. He decided to retire at the relatively young age of 60 because of his history of heart problems and was succeeded by Gary Moeller, whom he handpicked.
Schembechler was also the athletic director at Michigan from 1988 until early 1990. Just before the 1989 NCAA basketball tournament, men's basketball head coach Bill Frieder announced that he was taking the head coach position at Arizona State University, effective at the end of the season. Insisting on those in the program being dedicated to the school, Schembechler immediately fired Frieder and appointed assistant basketball coach Steve Fisher as interim head coach, while famously announcing that "a Michigan man is going to coach Michigan" in the NCAA tournament. Fisher led Michigan to six straight victories in the tournament and the 1989 national championship. Schembechler witnessed the championship game on his 60th birthday.
Schembechler also hosted a pre-game show on the Detroit ABC affiliate, WXYZ-TV along with Sports Anchor Don Shane named "Big Ten Ticket". It was devoted to his analysis of the Wolverines, the Michigan State Spartans and other Big Ten Conference teams.
On Thursday, November 16, 2006, and though he was not feeling well, Schembechler attended the funeral of his close friend and 1971 quarterback, Tom Slade. That night, Bo delivered his traditional Thursday night pep talk before the Ohio State game. According to the Detroit News: "Bo's speech was not about Ohio State, the Big Ten title or a national championship. The whole speech was about Tom Slade and how, if the players worked hard, listened to their coaches and stuck together as teammates, one day they might be as good a Michigan man as Slade. That was the goal at Michigan, not national championships." Schembechler finished by exhorting them to remember "the team, the team, the team!"
Schembechler died the day before one of the biggest games in the history of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. He was not planning on attending the November 18 game in Columbus, because his doctors had advised him that attending the game might be too much stress for his heart. Instead, Bo and his wife, Cathy, had packed the car and had planned to drive to suburban Dayton, Ohio to watch The Game with his former Miami teammate and best friend, Bill Gunlock.
The University's Board of Regents approved a plan for the renovation and expansion of Michigan Stadium on the day of Schembechler's death.
On November 21, 2006, the University of Michigan held a memorial service for Schembechler in Michigan Stadium. Approximately 20,000 fans, ex-players and coaches including former Shembechler player and assistant coach and current LSU head football coach Les Miles turned out during the middle of a work-day to pay their respects to Schembechler and to celebrate his life. Former Ohio State head coaches Earle Bruce and John Cooper attended, along with current coach Jim Tressel and his entire staff.
Before his death Schembechler had agreed to be an honorary pallbearer for President Gerald Ford. In his honor a University of Michigan stadium blanket was draped over a pew during President Ford's private funeral service held at Grace Episcopal Church in East Grand Rapids, on January 3, 2007, just two months after Bo's own funeral.
^^Note: Prior to 1975, Big Ten teams were not permitted to participate in any bowl other than the Rose Bowl.
After Schembechler married Mildred(Millie) in 1968, he adopted her three sons: Donald(Chip), Geoffrey and Matthew. Schembechler and Millie then had a son together, Glenn III(Schemmy).
Chip died in a car accident in 2003.
Following Millie's death in 1992, Schembechler married Cathy Aikens on November 27, 1993, who survived him in death.