In looking back at Michigan football icons there is none greater than Bo Schembechler. A fierce competitor and coach, Schembechler’s tenure from 1969-89 instilled many defining characteristics of Michigan football which persist today. In 1969 he told players that ‘Those Who Stay Will Be Champions’, and indeed under his watch Michigan played its way to 13 Big Ten championships, including 7 from 1971 to 1978. Lines from his ‘The Team’ speech are painted throughout the Michigan locker room and are often played at home games.
Schembechler’s first team pulled off one of college football’s greatest upsets, beating Woody Hayes’ (Schembechler’s former coach) undefeated OSU team 24-12 in the final game of the season. Hayes’ team was regarded as one of the greatest ever assembled, and had bulldozed every opponent they played that year. The game was the first in a heated decade of games with OSU that would be regarded as the Ten Year War.
Schembechler’s unwavering loyalty to Michigan was perhaps best highlighted during his tenure as athletic director at Michigan. When, prior to the NCAA tournament, basketball coach Bill Frieder announced he would leave Michigan for Arizona State, Schembechler fired Frieder and promoted Steve Fisher to the head job. Schembechler’s reasoning: “A Michigan man will coach Michigan!” Michigan would go on to win the national title that year. One could go on at length with similar stories and in fact several books have been written by and about Schembechler, who passed away in 2006. I’d recommend Bo’s Lasting Lessons, The Ten Year War, and Bo. He had an intense sideline presence during games, but the above photo shows that Schembechler was always careful to softly cradle his honey oat sourdough.