There are certain people in life that become synonymous with greatness, Bo Schembechler was one of those people.
I grew up in the 70's and 80's in an area where there was no real local team to root for. Syracuse's glory days were well before then, and Doug Flutie was tearing up high schools in Massachusetts when I started watching the Saturday game. So ABC, the only game in town in those days, usually piped in a Big Ten game into our tiny Vermont market. In those days, there were two names to remember, Woody and Bo.
Woody Hayes scared the bejesus out of me. He looked like a grandfather gone berserk, and when he hit that Clemson kid in the 1978 Gator Bowl, he was a grandfather gone berserk. So, as ids normally try to find something to catch onto to root for, I rooted against Woody and for Michigan. You have to remember, the Michigan Wolverines were the Boston Red Sox of college football, getting to the Rose Bowl and losing to either Southern Cal or UCLA each January 1t. A depressing idea now, but the color of Pasadena, the old flip cards they had in the stands to show different patterns on television at halftime, and the fact that the green field was so green, and the colors of the uniforms were so vivid, they painted a sense of importance in my five and six year old mind that has stuck with me to this day. It was a unique event, a football game played in the first dying hours of sunlight on the first day of the year, in a place that seemed a million miles away from the living room floor that I watched from.
Bo, his scowl, and his "three yards and a cloud of dust" philosophy stayed until his heart could not take it in 1989. He had only spent twenty ears on the sideline at Michigan as the head guy, but he was always the patriarch. The bowl losses, they didn't really matter. They made the big games, that's all that mattered. Today, he never would have survived the pressure.
But for his time, it did not matter. His time can be summed up by Paterno, Woody, Bo and the Bear. Legendary men, who rose above their legend to cast their influence on a generation of young men, and another, and another. Only Joepa is left from this list and you'll have to take him kicking and screaming from it.
Bo's legacy is huge. Michigan football is where it is because of him. The 109,000 that fill the Big House is because of him. When you think of Anthony Carter, to those great defenses, to the chess clinics he and Woody Hayes conducted on a cold Saturday in November, it is because of his influence and his passion. For millions of us who came to the game listening to Keith Jackson and appreciating the Maize and Blue, it is because of him and his spirit to win.
He hadn't coached a game in seventeen seasons, yet his presence could still be felt not only at the stadium, but through the television screen. When they shared(won) the 1997 National Championship in the failing light of a California sunset, it was him that most of us thought of, and wondered how he would have liked the passing game of today. He approved.
Bo never left. Not when he took over the Detroit Tigers, not the world's best idea. Nor when his promotion to Athletic Director ended and he was just a fan. The coaches door may have read Moeller or Carr, but underneath the nameplate, it screamed Schembechler.
It is November again, and that annual ritual has arrived. This time meaning more than anything Woody and Bo could ever dream of. While he won't be there, he will be there in full force, just like seeing the names of Cooper and Tressell, but thinking Hayes. Woody never left, and neither will Bo.
Thank you, and Godspeed.