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Posts Tagged ‘Bo Schembechler’

U-M great Steve Strinko’s long path to graduation ends tonight

Friday, April 29th, 2016


Steve Strinko banner(Photos provided by Steve Strinko)

Last week we brought you a preview of our partner, Rent Like a Champion’s story of former Michigan linebacker Steve Strinko graduating from Michigan more than 40 years after he left Ann Arbor early for the NFL. Today, with the University of Michigan’s commencement upon us, we bring you part two of Strinko’s long journey from football star to Michigan graduate.

Strinko left Michigan for the 1975 NFL Draft after being named first-team All-Big Ten, second-team All-America, and the team’s Most Valuable Player during the 1974 season. But a knee injury that he suffered during that season, in which Michigan went 10-1, tied with Ohio State for the Big Ten title, and finished ranked third nationally, doomed his NFL career.

The Detroit Lions selected Strinko in the ninth round, 219th overall, but complications from an off-season knee surgery landed him on the injured reserve list. When it didn’t heal properly, the Lions refused to sign him, despite his attempts to play through the injury and make the team. By the end of 1975, his NFL career was already over and he had never played a down in the league.

Without a degree and facing the sting of the end of his football career, Strinko “went on a wild hair chase,” moving to Florida and living for some time on his unemployment check from the Lions. He bounced around to Houston, Denver, Washington, D.C., and then back to Florida, working various jobs and battling addiction. He got married and moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where he lived for more than 20 years. He had “a few business successes but would tend to self destruct.”

In 2007, Strinko was deemed 100 percent disabled by the Social Security Administration and a few years later, finally entered recovery for his addictions.

“I can tell you unequivocally that coming to the place where I realized that I had to humble myself and surrender it all to God was the single most important decision I made,” Strinko told Maize and Go Blue on Wednesday night. “I had to dismiss all preconceived thoughts and ideas that I was in control of my life. I made a commitment to honor God and my family and I worked with experienced professionals who helped guide me through the process. I committed to a one-year residential treatment program that I chose and set in my mind that I was going to do whatever necessary to put my addiction behind me once and for all.”

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With the addictions behind him, Strinko set his sights on finishing his degree. He enrolled in online classes in the fall of 2014 and completed the necessary coursework to earn his Bachelors of General Studies degree.

So why, after all these years, did he go back and finish his degree?

“Really it was a combination of things,” Strinko said. “First, I had always had the desire to finish in the back of my mind. Second, being contacted by Sara Rechnitzer who works in Michigan’s Athletic Department and her explaining the Degree Completion Program and how UM would reimburse me for the costs associated with getting my degree. Finally, knowing I could complete all of my coursework through the accredited Liberty University was the deal clincher.”

Strinko admits that it wasn’t easy to resume course work after so many years.

“Getting accustomed to online courses was a little challenging in the beginning. I had taken three, four credit hour courses at Miami Dade College in 2010 so I had already had a little bit of an idea of what would be required. I have to tell you that at 60 years of age you get pretty set in your ways and spending hours upon hours reading and writing was the hardest aspect of the challenge.”

When Strinko returns to Ann Arbor this weekend, it won’t be the first time he’s been back since his playing days — he said he came back in 1989 for a Bo’s Boys 20 year celebration and a few more times over the past two years — but this visit will certainly be the most significant. He’s looking forward to sharing the occasion with his family, several out of town friends from high school who will be making the trip up, and several former teammates.

As he readied himself for the emotional trip, Strinko looked back on his playing days and counted the comradery with his coaches and teammates to be his fondest memory.

“The comradery, hands down,” he said. “Playing four years and only losing 3 games and the closeness that kind of success promotes is not doubt the best feeling one can have. Also, running out of the tunnel on game day in front of 100,000 fans is like no-other feeling one can get anywhere.  Finally, the friends beyond the team and the people in Ann Arbor are incredible.”

He also recalled one of his favorite stories about his coach, the great Bo Schembechler.

“In the summer preceding my senior year I had to take a summer school class in order to remain eligible. Unfortunately, my professor for that course went to Europe before officially entering the grade. Therefore, when we reported for two-a-days I was not eligible. The reason this was a big deal is that every senior is eligible to be voted on for captain.

“Bo called me into a separate meeting room before the announcement that we were voting for captains. He said, ‘Strinko, you cannot be considered for captain of this squad because you are as of right now not eligible.’ Of course I explained I had been given a four-hour “A” but to no avail. Not sure I would have been voted as captain but we will never know.

“This incident so irked Bo that he made me run ten, 100-yard dashes against him after the morning and afternoon two-a-day practices. He even gave himself a 10-yard head start. I will never forget on the first day as we lined up to race he turned and looked at me and said ‘for every one that I beat you, you will have to run ten more.’ He never beat me.”

Tonight, when Strinko receives his degree during the student-athlete ceremony at the Crisler Center, Bo will undoubtedly be looking down from above on the linebacker from Middletown, Ohio, who he once stole away from Woody Hayes. And despite the 42 year gap, Strinko isn’t about to look back and wish he had done things differently.

“I have never been one to have regrets about what I did or did not do in the past. I prefer to consider that wherever the journey took me, it was necessary for me to get to where I am today. Dwelling on what could’ve or should’ve been is a waste of time and energy.

“The reason the rear view mirror is so much smaller than the windshield is that it is much more important to have a vision of where one is going than to dwell on what is behind us. I will say that there is merit in learning from your past mistakes but only as those mistakes are used as a guide of what not to do in the future. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Next week, we will finish this three-part series with a recap of Strinko’s graduation weekend experience and a look ahead at his current venture, FAN, Inc., which is helping the Michigan Football Alumni Network avoid the same pitfalls that tripped him up after his football career.

Michigan great Steve Strinko set to graduate, four decades later

Thursday, April 14th, 2016


Steve Strinko banner(Photos provided by Steve Strinko)

With commencement just two weeks away, most families of graduating seniors have likely already secured lodging for the weekend. But if you haven’t, there are still 18 houses available to rent through our partner, Rent Like a Champion, for as low as $500 for the weekend. Wouldn’t it be great to spend the weekend comfortably, celebrating together with family and friends, rather than cooped up in separate hotel rooms?

Former Michigan football standout Steve Strinko is doing just that when he returns to Ann Arbor to finally graduate, four decades after leaving school early for the NFL. Here’s a selection of a story Rent Like a Champion recently wrote and posted on their site:

Nearly 45 years after he first stepped foot on the Michigan campus, Steve Strinko is returning to Ann Arbor. Strinko won’t be wrapping up ball-carriers or intimidating quarterbacks like he used to for the Maize and Blue — he has more important business to take care of on this trip to the Big House. Steve Strinko is going to become a graduate of the University of Michigan.

“This is the culmination of everything I had hoped for – being able to go to Ann Arbor, and be with my friends and family,” Strinko says. “There are some people who will be there that have never given up on Steve Strinko.”

STRINKO’S ROAD TO ANN ARBOR

Strinko’s graduation day will complete a journey that would have never commenced in Ann Arbor if Woody Hayes had something to say about it.

Ohio State’s legendary coach hosted Strinko and his mother and father to watch Super Bowl V during Strinko’s senior year of high school. He desperately wanted the Ohio-grown blue-chipper to stay home for college, but even a delicious home-cooked meal by Woody’s wife, Ann, wasn’t enough to keep Strinko in the Buckeye state.

“Ann cooked a wonderful dinner, and it was one of those incredible afternoons that gives you an idea of who Woody was,” Strinko recalls.

But the Super Bowl watch wasn’t enough to convince Strinko to stay home. That school “up North” beckoned.

“Michigan wanted me to play linebacker, and Bo was great during the whole recruiting process,” Strinko says. “Woody for four years never called me by name – he always said ‘the SOB linebacker up there.”

To read the rest of the story, please visit Rent Like a Champion.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this three-part series on Strinko next week as he looks forward to graduation day.
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About Rent Like a Champion:

Rent Like a Champion offers out town visitors homes to rent for weekends such as football and basketball games, commencement, and other special events. Their model, similar to vacation rental companies such as airbnb, allows home owners to make money by renting out their homes for these events. The main difference is that RLAC focuses on college towns.

Some of the benefits of renting include comfort of home, having your entire party together under one roof, communal spaces such as patios for barbecuing, and in some cases being within walking distance of the stadium.

Harbaugh comes home

Monday, December 29th, 2014


Harbaugh 49ers(Getty Images)

Michigan’s football season ended nearly a month ago, but the program landed its biggest win of the season on Monday when San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh landed in Detroit with his family to accept the same position at Michigan.

The move had been rumored for weeks as Michigan insiders gradually raised their odds with each passing day and NFL insiders maintained their stance that other NFL teams would swoop in and land the former Michigan quarterback. But John U. Bacon tweeted the first solid confirmation on Saturday night, ESPN’s John Clayton stated on Sunday morning on ESPN Radio that Harbaugh had begun contacting possible assistants, and Fox Sports college football writer Bruce Feldman confirmed on Sunday afternoon. Harbaugh himself made it official on Monday, a day after closing his 49ers tenure with a 20-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh will become the 19th head coach in program history (Malcolm Emmons, USA Today Sports)

Former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh will become the 20th head coach in program history (Malcolm Emmons, USA Today Sports)

Harbaugh went 44-19-1 in his four years in San Francisco, taking the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVIII, which they lost to the Baltimore Ravens, and the NFC Championship game in 2011 and 2013. His winning percentage of .698 ranks fifth in NFL history behind only Guy Chamberlain (.784 from 1922-27), John Madden (.763 from 1969-78), Vince Lombardi (.738 from 1959-69), and George Allen (.712 from 1966-77).

Prior to the NFL, Harbaugh turned around a suffering Stanford program, taking a team that went 1-11 in 2006 to four straight seasons with improving records. The Cardinal went 4-8 in his first season, 5-7 in his second, 8-5 in his third, and 12-1 in his fourth, finishing second in the Pac-10 and beating Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. He jumped to the NFL following that season, but the roster he recruited went on to records of 11-2, 12-2, and 11-3 in the next three seasons.

Harbaugh did the same at the University of San Diego before Stanford, taking a team that had achieved just 10 seven-plus win seasons since 1956 and going 7-4, 11-1, 11-1 in his three seasons. The latter two were USD’s first double-digit win seasons in program history.

Harbaugh also spent eight seasons as an assistant coach for his father at Western Kentucky while finishing his NFL playing career, and officially began his coaching career as a quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders in 2002-2003.

As a player, Harbaugh started 140 games in 14 seasons with the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, and San Diego Chargers. He totaled 26,288 passing yards and 129 touchdowns and ranks second in Bears history in completions (1,023), attempts (1,759), and third in yards (11,567). He was also inducted into the Colts Ring of Honor in 2005.

Harbaugh is most beloved in Ann Arbor for his playing days at Michigan under Bo Schembechler when he led the Wolverines to a 24-4-1 record as a starter. He led the nation in pass efficiency in 1985 while leading Michigan to a Big Ten title and Fiesta Bowl victory. The following season, he finished third in the Heisman trophy voting and was named Big Ten Player of the Year. He became the first Michigan quarterback to throw for 300 yards in a game and finished his career in the top five in passing attempts, completions, completion percentage, passing yards, and touchdown passes.

Harbaugh becomes the 20th head coach in the 136 year history of Michigan football, replacing Brady Hoke, who went 31-20 in four seasons. He will reportedly be officially introduced on Tuesday at a 12 p.m. press conference and again during that afternoon’s basketball game against Illinois, which tips off at 3 p.m.

Stay tuned for more coverage and analysis in the days to come.

Dave Brandon steps down, Jim Hackett named interim AD

Friday, October 31st, 2014


Dave Brandon(Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

University of Michigan president Mark Schlissel announced Friday that he had accepted the resignation of athletic director Dave Brandon and named former Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett as the interim athletic director.

“This morning I accepted the resignation of Athletic Director David Brandon,” Schlissel said in a press conference. “Dave feels that it would be in the best interest of our student-athletes, the athletic department and the university community if he moved on to other challenges and allowed the important work of the department and university to continue without daily distractions. And I agree with this decision.”

Brandon, who has been under fire all season for a wide range of issues such as rising ticket prices, the corporatization of Michigan football, and the handling of quarterback Shane Morris’ concussion against Minnesota, formally stepped down after more than four years on the job. Brandon’s departure had been rumored for weeks, but a string of email responses brought to light by mgoblog on Tuesday served as the final straw.

Brandon achieved many things during his tenure such as modernizing athletic facilities, making lacrosse a varsity program, and building a Bo Schembechler statue, but was ultimately judged on his hiring of Brady Hoke, whose football program has produced declining records in each of his four years.

(Melanie Maxwell, The Ann Arbor News)

Former Steelcase, Inc. CEO Jim Hackett was named the interim AD to help lead the search (Melanie Maxwell, The Ann Arbor News)

While no timeline has been set forth for Brandon’s replacement or the status of Hoke, Hackett will step in and help lead that process going forward. The 59-year-old Hackett graduated from Michigan in 1977 and played football with Brandon for Schembechler. He retired last February as CEO of Grand Rapids-based office furniture company Steelcase, where he served for 20 years. He’s also a member of the board of advisors for the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and the Life Sciences Institute.

“I am confident that Jim will immediately begin the process of moving the department forward, including working closely with me to develop a plan to identify and recruit Michigan’s next permanent athletic director,” Schlissel said of Hackett.

The leading candidates to replace Brandon are University of Connecticut athletic director Warde Manuel, Boston College athletic director Brad Bates, and University of Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long. All three have ties to Michigan. Manuel and Bates played for Schembechler, while Long spent 14 years in the U-M athletic department.

On Thursday, FootballScoop.com threw out another name: Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione, indicating that Michigan may try to hire someone with no ties to the program to bring in some new ideas.

Schlissel touted Hackett’s management of Steelcase as it transitioned from a traditional manufacturing company to an innovative global company, as well as his interpersonal skills and longstanding commitment to serving the university. Hackett thanked Brandon for his commitment to Michigan but pointed out two of his mentors whose legacy he will draw from as he leads Michigan through this change.

“My time as a student at Michigan introduced me to two people who would become lifelong heroes of mine,” said Hackett. “Early on, there was Bo Schembechler, and the other was President Gerald Ford whom I met later in his life after he had retired from public office.”

Both of them would be quite certain that the future of Michigan is not in doubt. They would be reminding all of us of the legacy of extraordinary performance in the classroom and on the field and how that unique combination puts us in a rare position.”

As we gather for Homecoming weekend, and honor our shared history, I hope fans, former players, students and my fellow alumni can come together in support of our teams.”

Michigan hosts Indiana at 3:30pm tomorrow.

Bo’s Last Stand: A look back at the final season of a legendary career

Monday, August 4th, 2014


Bo-1989(AP)

The following story was written for our annual Michigan football season preview magazine, In the Huddle: Michigan by Lindy’s Sports. However, due to the abrupt closing of their primary Midwest distributor in June, they were unable to publish the Michigan, Ohio State, or Notre Dame magazines this year. 

If Michigan’s present-day football rut seems to be as low as it can go, it can get worse. And it has been. Forty-five years ago Michigan football was trying to recover from six losing seasons in a span of 11 years. After firing Bump Elliott, the next two decades would change that course, and when the man who brought about that change retired 25 years ago this season, the program would be back among the nation’s elite.

When Bo Schembechler was hired on Dec. 28, 1968 from Miami of Ohio, many scoffed at the idea of a no-name coach from the Mid-American Conference taking over Michigan football. But when he guided the Wolverines to an 8-3 record in his first season, including a 24-12 win over a top-ranked and undefeated Ohio State squad that had beaten Michigan 50-14 the previous year, it was apparent that Michigan had someone special at the helm.

In the years that followed, Schembechler led Michigan to 13 Big Ten championships, 10 Rose Bowls, an overall winning percentage of .796, and a conference winning percentage of .850.

This season marks 25 years since Schembechler completed his illustrious career. As the 2014 edition of Michigan football gets set to take the field, let’s relive Bo’s final season on the sidelines.

Lou Holtz got the best of Bo in his final season thanks to a pair of Rocket Ismail return touchdowns

Lou Holtz got the best of Bo in his final season thanks to a pair of Rocket Ismail return touchdowns

Michigan closed the 1988 season with a 9-2-1 record and a 22-14 win over Southern California in the Rose Bowl, setting up high expectations for what would be Schembechler’s final season. Although nobody knew that at the time.

Prior to the 1988 season the Board of Regents had asked Schembechler to take over as athletic director, but they wanted him to step down as football coach in order to do so. Schembechler had missed the Rose Bowl that ended the ’87 season after undergoing heart surgery following his second heart attack. That the regents wanted him to step down from the pressures of coaching was no surprise, but Bo would have none of it. Two months later, interim president Robben W. Fleming offered him the position, allowing him to remain head coach. He accepted.

The Wolverines began the 1989 campaign ranked first nationally, but by the time defending national champion Notre Dame came to town for Michigan’s season opener, the Irish had leapfrogged Michigan for the top spot thanks to a 36-13 win over Virginia in the Kickoff Classic two weeks earlier.

Second-ranked Michigan hosted top-ranked Notre Dame on Sept. 16, the earliest meeting of the top two ranked teams in college football history. Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz had gotten the best of Schembechler each of the two previous seasons and Bo wanted revenge.

On a rainy and overcast Saturday in Ann Arbor, Notre Dame jumped out ahead, 7-0. After a Michael Taylor fumble set Notre Dame up at the Michigan 24, quarterback Tony Rice found running back Anthony Johnson from six yards out for the game’s first score. It also happened to be Rice’s only completion of the day.

Michigan answered with a nine-yard touchdown pass from Taylor to Chris Calloway just 25 seconds before the half. However, kicker J.D. Carlson missed the extra point, and the teams went into the locker room with Notre Dame holding a 7-6 lead.

A defensive struggle quickly turned into a shootout when Notre Dame receiver Rocket Ismail took the opening kickoff of the second half 88 yards for a touchdown, the first kickoff returned for a touchdown against Michigan in 32 years. A 30-yard field goal increased the Irish lead to 17-6 before redshirt freshman quarterback Elvis Grbac, who took over for an injured Taylor, found tight end Derrick Walker for a touchdown. A two-point conversion attempt failed.

Ismail took the ensuing kickoff and raced 92 yards for his second touchdown of the day, putting Notre Dame ahead, 24-12. Grbac led another Michigan scoring drive, this time a four-yard touchdown pass to split end Greg McMurtry with 4:08 remaining, but an onside kick failed and Notre Dame held on for the 24-19 win.

“This won’t ruin our season,” proclaimed a defiant Schembechler after the game. On Ismail, Schembechler praised, “He may be the best I’ve seen. He is faster than the speed of sound.”

The season didn’t get any easier from there as Michigan traveled to Pasadena, Calif. to face off with 24th-ranked UCLA. The Bruins jumped out to a 14-3 lead, but Michigan got field goals of 36 and 43 yards from Carlson.

In the third quarter, Tripp Welborne took a UCLA punt 63 yards to set up a one-yard Leroy Hoard touchdown run to give Michigan its first lead of the game at 15-14. UCLA answered with a 45-yard field goal, and after recovering a Hoard fumble, punched in a touchdown. Michigan blocked the extra point, but UCLA led 23-15.

The Bruins had a chance to put the game away, but running back Shawn Wills fumbled and Michigan recovered at the UCLA 43 with just under four minutes remaining. Grbac found Walker for a three-yard touchdown with 1:35 to play, but the two-point conversion pass fell incomplete.

J.D. Carlson's game-winning field goal gave Bo a thrilling victory over UCLA

J.D. Carlson’s game-winning field goal gave Bo a thrilling victory over UCLA

Trailing 23-21, Michigan recovered an onside kick, and Carlson kicked a 24-yard field to give Michigan a 24-23 win.

Michigan returned home for a pair of matchups with unranked foes, Maryland and Wisconsin. The Wolverines scored on four of their first six possessions against Maryland to race out to a 28-7 halftime lead. Hoard scored from yard out to give Michigan a 35-7 lead early in the third and Carlson kicked a pair of field goals in the fourth as the Wolverines closed out a convincing 41-21 win.

Michigan followed that up with a 24-0 shutout of Wisconsin, holding the Badgers to just 97 total yards. Grbac completed 16-of-23 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown, while Tony Boles led the way on the ground with 95 yards and a score.

In-state rival Michigan State, which had lost to No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Miami by a combined 14 points, was up next. The teams traded turnovers on their first possessions before the Spartans moved the ball into Michigan’s red zone. Michigan held strong on third-and-one, forcing a 37-yard field goal attempt. It was blocked and Michigan took advantage, going 61 yards in 14 plays for the games first and only touchdown, a one-yard run by Hoard on fourth-and-goal.

After forcing a three-and-out, the Michigan offense once again marched down the field. A 46-yard field goal attempt fell short, but Michigan State was called for offside, extending the Michigan drive. Four plays later, Carlson connected on a 35-yard field goal to put Michigan ahead, 10-0.

On their second possession of the second half, Michigan State moved inside the Michigan 10 where quarterback Dan Enos handed it off to Blake Ezor four straight times. Ezor made it to the four, then the three, then the one, setting up a fourth-and-goal just like Michigan faced in the first half. But Welborne stuffed Ezor for no gain and Michigan took over.

Michigan went three-and-out and Michigan State made another costly mistake on its ensuing possession, missing a 34-yard field goal. The Spartans finally got on the board midway through the fourth quarter when Enos threw a four-yard touchdown pass, but Michigan held on to win, 10-7.

“It was a nice, hard-hitting game,” said a relieved Schembechler afterward. “Nice and physical. A lot of good collisions. And the best team won. There’s not much more you can say.”

Now 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten, Bo didn’t want to give any credence to the notion that his squad had the conference title locked up.

“What people have got to understand is that we still have to play Iowa and Illinois on the road and Ohio State at home,” Schembechler said. “We’ve got the toughest schedule in the league. Hey, we’re only 2-0, and we share the lead. We’ve got a long way to go.”

Michigan rolled through a 3-2 Iowa team in Iowa City, 26-12, on the strength of 138 total yards by Boles. The Wolverines returned home to thump Indiana 38-10 and Purdue 42-27, setting up a big showdown at Illinois.

Like Michigan, the eighth-ranked Fighting Illini had just one blemish on the season, a 38-7 defeat at then-eighth-ranked Colorado on Sept. 16. Bo’s squad wasted no time getting on the board, as Boles raced 73 yards on the game’s second play and Jarrod Bunch punched it in one play later from a yard out.

Bo topped Ohio State in 1989 to end his career with a winning record against the Buckeyes

Bo topped Ohio State in 1989 to end his career with a winning record against the Buckeyes

Illinois came right back with a touchdown if its own and then gave Michigan a break on its next possession, running into punter Chris Stapleton and extending the Wolverine drive. Carlson kicked a 47-yard field goal to put Michigan on top, 10-7. Illinois tied the game with a 25-yard field goal on its next possession.

The two teams traded punts before Michigan put together another scoring drive, this time going 80 yards in 11 plays and a one-yard Taylor touchdown run. Michigan took a 17-10 lead into the half.

The second half was the defensive battle that most expected. Illinois intercepted Taylor on Michigan’s second possession of the half and marched inside the Michigan 10. On fourth-and-one from the four, Jeff George’s pass fell incomplete and Michigan retained its lead.

Midway through the fourth, Michigan put together the game-clinching drive, once again going 80 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown. Boles scored from 13 yards out to put Michigan ahead, 24-10, with just 2:31 to play. Welborne sealed the game with an interception and Michigan advanced to 8-1 overall and 6-0 in Big Ten play.

“It was a great team victory. I’m happy as the dickens for ya,” Schembechler told the team in the locker room. “I want you to understand one thing though, men. We have not won the Big Ten championship yet. This is a big hurdle for us to get over, but we’re healthy, we’re eager, we’re tough, and we’re going to finish this season. We’re going to finish with a flourish. We’re going to finish tough, we’re going to get better, we’re going to stay after them until we win the championship again, head back to the Rose Bowl!”

A confident Michigan team easily disposed of Minnesota, 49-15, a week later, leaving Ohio State as the only team standing between them and a Big Ten title and return trip to Pasadena.

Michigan’s offense crossed into Buckeye territory on each of its first five possessions, jumping ahead 14-0. It very well could have been more had Michigan not fumbled it away twice in the first half. Ohio State got on the board just before the half with a 20-yard field goal.

Taylor was intercepted on Michigan’s first possession of the second half and Ohio State turned it into a field goal. Michigan went three-and-out and Ohio State went 40 yards in nine plays to pull within 14-12. At the beginning of the fourth, Michigan punted it back to the Buckeyes, but cornerback Todd Plate picked off OSU quarterback Greg Frey near midfield. Michigan capitalized with a five-yard touchdown pass from Taylor to Bunch.

Ohio State wasn’t finished however. The Buckeyes strung together an 11-play touchdown drive, but Michigan blocked the extra point to keep a 21-18 lead. Ohio State’s defense held strong, forcing Michigan to punt it back with under four minutes to play, but Plate came up big once again with his second interception of the day. Michigan put the game away on a 23-yard Bunch touchdown run, wrapping up a second straight outright Big Ten title and another Rose Bowl appearance.

“Ohio State really came at us and gave us everything they had,” Schembechler said after the game. “We showed that we were our worst enemy, but we hung in there.”

Two weeks after securing a career winning record against his rival from Columbus, Schembechler announced that he would retire following the Rose Bowl. He named offensive coordinator Gary Moeller his successor and delivered a poignant speech to those gathered at Crisler Arena.

“I’ve been a very fortunate coach,” Schembechler started. “I’ve coached for 37 years and 27 of them as a head coach. I was given a job to coach Michigan football in 1969. That had to be, when I was in this room and appointed by Don Canham as football coach of Michigan, the greatest day of my life.

“Because Michigan is special. And the opportunity to coach here was tremendous. I couldn’t ask for a better career. I’m a very happy man today. I’m not here to shed a tear; it’s not because I’m sad at leaving. I hate to leave the players, I hate to leave coaching, but it’s time to go. And yet, who could ask for a greater career than I’ve had? It’s not that I’ve done everything in football, but I’ve coached at Michigan.”

Bo's final game on the sidelines was the 1990 Rose Bowl against USC

Bo’s final game on the sidelines was the 1990 Rose Bowl against USC

The Wolverines met 12th-ranked Southern California in the Rose Bowl for the second straight year, this time hoping to send their beloved coach off on top. It began as a defensive battle, neither team able to score a point in the first quarter. It was USC that did the damage first on a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Todd Marinovich. Midway through the second quarter, Carlson kicked a 19-yard field goal to pull Michigan within four. A 34-yard USC field goal closed the first half with the Trojans ahead, 10-3.

Running back Allen Jefferson tied the game on a two-yard touchdown run on Michigan’s second possession of the second half. Early in the fourth, Michigan faced a fourth-and-two from its own 46. The normally conservative Schembechler called a fake punt and it was executed beautifully as Stapleton raced 24 yards. But the Pac-10 officiating crew flagged linebacker Bobby Abrams for holding, negating the first down. Michigan punted and Southern Cal went 75 yards in 13 plays for the game-winning touchdown.

Instead of a storybook ending, perhaps it was more fitting that the fiery coach went out swinging. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct on top of the holding penalty and issued a scathing assessment after the game.

“It was the most unbelievable call I’ve ever seen, and it came in my final game,” Schembechler said of the holding call. “It was an absolutely ridiculous call. If I see the film and I’m wrong, I’ll retract what I’ve said. But people who saw it in the press box said it was a ridiculous call.”

“Whatever I do in my next job, I want nothing to do with officiating. Nothing! How do I want to be remembered? I’m just a coach.”

And with that, Bo’s career was over. He went out with the most wins of any active coach (at the time) in college football and the fifth-most all-time, 13 Big Ten titles, 17 bowl appearances, 16 top ten finishes, and a legacy that will live on forever. Although he passed away eight years ago this November, Bo won’t soon be forgotten in Ann Arbor.

The five greatest eras of Michigan football

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014


The following story was written for our annual Michigan football season preview magazine, In the Huddle: Michigan by Lindy’s Sports. However, due to the abrupt closing of their primary Midwest distributor in June, they were unable to publish the Michigan, Ohio State, or Notre Dame magazines this year. 

One hundred and thirty-five years ago, Michigan football was born. On May 30, 1879, the first official University of Michigan football team participated in its first game against Racine College. The game was played in Chicago, Illinois, and was attended by 500 spectators. Michigan’s Irving Kane Pond scored the contest’s only touchdown, leading Michigan to a 1-0 victory. Yes, touchdowns were worth just a single point in 1879.

Things have changed a bit for Michigan football since that historic day in May 1879. On August 30, 2014, the Wolverines will kick off their 135th season against Appalachian State. The game will be played in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and attended by more than 110,000 spectators. It is highly probable more than one touchdown will be scored, and, when they are, they will be worth six points, not a measly one.

Despite these variations, there has been one relative constant the past 135 years: Michigan’s stature in college football. Since competing against Racine College in 1879, Michigan has established itself as one of the most storied college football programs. No school has more all-time wins than Michigan. Only one school has a higher all-time winning percentage than Michigan, and it is only by six one-hundredths of a percentage point, too. The Wolverines also have 11 national championships, 23 undefeated seasons, 42 conference titles, 43 bowl appearances, three Heisman Trophy winners, and 129 first-team All-Americans. These are the numbers of a program that has been the cream of the crop for multiple stretches of time. Therefore, let’s reflect on the five eras of Michigan football that made it one of the most prestigious programs in the nation.

1901-05: The “Point-a-Minute” Era

1901 Michigan team

After the 1900 season, Michigan head coach Langdon Lea resigned. Needing a new coach for the following season, Michigan’s athletic director, Charles A. Baird, extended an offer to Fielding H. Yost, which Yost accepted. When Yost first arrived in Ann Arbor, he famously ran up State Street and proclaimed to a reporter, “Michigan isn’t going to lose a game.” Yost delivered on his guarantee.

In Yost’s first season, Michigan achieved a perfect 11-0 record, won the inaugural Rose Bowl, and claimed the program’s first national championship. Yet this is not even Michigan’s most impressive feat. En route to a perfect record, Michigan outscored all of its opponents by a 550-to-0 margin. In fact, one week, the Wolverines scored 22 touchdowns in 38 minutes of play against Buffalo. The game was so out of hand that Buffalo quit with 15 minutes still left to play. And Buffalo was not the only Michigan opponent to surrender early. Michigan’s 1901 campaign remains of the most dominant seasons, if not the most, in college football history. It also ushered in the “Point-a-Minute” era.

From 1901 to 1905, Yost’s squads were known as the “Point-a-Minute” teams. Why? Michigan’s offense was so proficient that it scored 2,821 points those five seasons, averaging nearly one point scored for every minute of play. Accordingly, the Wolverines did not suffer a single loss in their first 56 games under Yost, compiling a 55-0-1 record. They won national championships in 1901, 1902, 1903, and 1904. They also were in line to capture their fifth consecutive national title in 1905, defeating their first 12 opponents by a 495-to-0 margin. But the University of Chicago upset Michigan, 2-0, in the season finale and handed Yost his first loss at Michigan. The loss marked the end of Yost’s “Point-a-Minute” teams and arguably the most dominant dynasty in college football.

1922-26: The End of Yost’s Reign

1925 Michigan team

Two decades later, Yost still was the coach at Michigan. After the “Point-a-Minute” era, Michigan continued to be successful under Yost, but conference championships were few and far between. However, the Wolverines returned to their championship-winning ways as the sun began to set on Yost’s tenure as Michigan’s coach.

In 1922 and 1923, Michigan did not lose a single game. In 1922, Michigan went 6-0-1, winning a share of its second Big Ten championship since 1906. The following season, the Wolverines were a perfect 8-0-0 and locked up their sixth national championship under Yost. Yost then retired as coach to focus on his duties as Michigan’s athletic director. However, his replacement, George Little, left Michigan after one season. Yost decided to return to his old post on the sideline for one last stint. Why? He saw an opportunity to revolutionize the game.

In 1925 and 1926, Michigan had quarterback Benny Friedman and receiver Bennie Oosterbaan. During those times, teams did not throw the football unless they were desperate for a big play. Instead, teams committed their entire offense to running the football. But this changed with Friedman and Oosterbaan. Friedman displayed passing skills that no previous quarterback ever had, while Oosterbaan became the prototype for an athletic, finesse receiver who could be a downfield threat. Together, they excited audiences weekly as Friedman connected with Oosterbaan for passing touchdown after passing touchdown. Accordingly, the duo became known as “The Benny-to-Bennie Show.”

Not only was their “show” exciting, it was quite productive, too. Friedman and Oosterbaan led Michigan to back-to-back conference championships in 1925 and 1926. In fact, Yost called his 1925 squad “the greatest football team I ever coached” and “the greatest football team I ever saw in action.” He even thought that the 1925 team was better than his “Point-a-Minute” teams. However, the 1925 squad failed to win a national title because it lost to Northwestern, 3-2, in the middle of a heavy rainstorm. They were the only three points Michigan allowed all year. After the 1926 season, Yost retired as Michigan’s coach for the second time. This time, it would stick. Yost’s reign over college football ended. 

1930-33: Kipke’s Kingdom

Michigan 1933

But Michigan’s reign over college football did not end with Yost’s second retirement. In 1929, acting as Michigan’s athletic director, Yost hired Harry Kipke as Michigan’s new coach. Kipke used his first season to mold Michigan into the program he wanted to take into battle. By his second season in 1930, Michigan once again was ready to fight as a college football powerhouse.

In 1930 and 1931, Michigan was a serious championship contender, but a few slipups here and there cost Kipke and the Wolverines their chances. In 1930, the Wolverines posted an 8-0-1 record and their first undefeated season since 1923. Michigan shared a piece of the Big Ten championship with Northwestern, but a scoreless draw against Michigan State prevented Michigan from earning the national crown. Next season, Michigan’s defense was a force with which to be reckoned. The Wolverines shut out eight of their 10 foes and allowed only 27 points all year. But 20 of those points were allowed in one game. The result was a 20-7 loss to Ohio State. Although Michigan’s 8-1-1 record was sufficient to capture its second straight Big Ten title, the Wolverines were one mistake away from a national championship yet again.

But Michigan rectified its errors in 1932 and 1933. In 1932, there were no losses or ties to foil Michigan’s national championship dreams. The Wolverines finished with a perfect 8-0-0 record. Michigan rode its defense to the program’s seventh national title and Kipke’s first. The Wolverines shut out six of their eight opponents and allowed only 13 points all year. In 1933, Michigan went 7-0-1. The Wolverines’ only blemish was a scoreless stalemate against Minnesota. Nonetheless, unlike the 1930 campaign, Michigan had done enough to be crowned the national champion for the second straight season. Overall, from 1930 to 1933, Kipke was king, leading Michigan to a 31-1-3 record, four straight Big Ten championships and back-to-back national titles.

1947-50: The Mad Magicians

Michigan 1947

Fritz Crisler became Kipke’s successor in 1938. Crisler made his mark on the Michigan program early in his tenure. When he first arrived in Ann Arbor, Crisler presented Michigan with the famous winged football helmet. Supposedly, he wanted his players to wear the winged helmet, so his quarterback could locate his receivers downfield. Nonetheless, the winged helmet has become one of the iconic symbols of Michigan football. But it was not until the end of his tenure when Crisler made his biggest contribution not only to Michigan, but to all of college football.

Prior to 1947, teams played their best players on both offense and defense. However, in 1941, the NCAA implemented a new rule that allowed players to enter or leave at any point during the game. Crisler took advantage of this rule in 1947 when he divided his team into “offensive” and “defensive” specialists. This became known as “two-platoon football” and would forever change how the game of football would be played.

With specialized units on both offense and defense, Michigan mastered both sides of the line of scrimmage. This was especially the case on offense. Michigan deployed seven different formations and an array of trick plays. There were double reverses, buck-reverse laterals, crisscrosses, quick-hits, and spins. These plays, along with the Wolverines’ endless substitutions, created a level of deception and chaos that no one had ever seen on the gridiron. Accordingly, the media nicknamed the 1947 team the “Mad Magicians.”  The Mad Magicians won both the Big Ten and national championship. Crisler retired after the season, but two-platoon football propelled the Wolverines to three more Big Ten titles and another national title the following three years.

1969-78: The Ten-Year War

OSU-Michigan banner

Michigan versus Ohio State. Maize and Blue versus Scarlet and Gray. It is arguably the greatest rivalry in all of sports. And this was never more the case than when it was Bo Schembechler versus Woody Hayes. When Michigan hired Schembechler prior to the 1969 season, the Wolverines were a shell of their former selves. They had endured multiple losing seasons the previous two decades and had wandered into mediocrity. On the other hand, Hayes had transformed the Buckeyes into a juggernaut and one of the best college football programs in the nation.

In Schembechler’s first meeting against Hayes in 1969, no one outside the Michigan locker room expected the Wolverines to win. Ohio State rode a 22-game winning streak into the matchup, which included a 50-14 rout over Michigan the previous season. Some even considered the Buckeyes to be the best team of all-time. The Wolverines did not care. Michigan jumped out to a 24-12 halftime lead and held on to upset Ohio State by the same score with the help of seven OSU turnovers. Not only was Michigan’s victory considered one of the most historic upsets in college football, it ignited the heated “Ten-Year War.”

Under Schembechler and Hayes, respectively, Michigan and Ohio State were by far the two best Big Ten teams from 1969 to 1978. Michigan’s record against non-Ohio State teams those seasons was 91-11-2. Ohio State’s record against non-Michigan teams those seasons was 84-15-2. Consequently, both schools always were looking ahead to their rivalry showdown in the regular-season finale because they knew that outcome would determine the Big Ten champion, the Big Ten’s representative in the Rose Bowl, and, in some cases, the national champion. Despite winning only two of the first seven matchups, Michigan beat Ohio State three straight times from 1976 to 1978 to win the Ten-Year War with a 5-4-1 record. During this run, the Wolverines clinched at least a share of eight Big Ten championships and appeared in five Rose Bowls. The Ten-Year War brought Michigan football back from the dead and raised its rivalry with Ohio State to an unprecedented level.

Since the Ten-Year War, Michigan has had some very successful stretches of success. From 1988 to 1992, the Wolverines won five straight Big Ten titles. Then, from 1997 to 2000, Michigan claimed its 11th national championship in 1997, three Big Ten titles, and four straight bowl victories. But those teams did not exude the superiority and dominance that Michigan did in those earlier eras. Those earlier eras made Michigan football what it is today. And, on August 30, 2014, Michigan hopes to begin a new one that tops all of them.

Countdown to kickoff: 68 days

Monday, June 23rd, 2014


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Countdown to kickoff: 85 days

Friday, June 6th, 2014


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Countdown to kickoff: 89 days

Monday, June 2nd, 2014


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Drew’s mailbag: The rival Michigan needs to beat, Crawford’s crazy courtship

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014


Below is another installment of Drew’s Mailbag, which will run every two weeks throughout the offseason, answering any questions you may have regarding Michigan athletics. You can submit your questions to Drew on Twitter (@DrewCHallett) or via email (drew.maizeandgoblue@gmail.com).

Which [rivalry game] do you want the most if [Michigan football] can [win] only one? – Josh (@josh_muhleck)

Why only one? Shouldn’t Michigan expect to beat all three of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State next season? This is Michigan, fergodsakes. The leaders and best. The champions of the West. Michigan does not accept anything but first place. Etcetera, etcetera. Yada yada yada.

Okay. Now that that is out of my system, let’s be realistic. The truth is that it is highly unlikely that Michigan will defeat all three of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State in the fall. The Wolverines are staring up at all three rivals at the moment. The Buckeyes are 24-2 in two seasons under Urban Meyer. The Spartans have won at least 11 games three of the past four seasons, which includes earning an outright Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl victory last year. The Fighting Irish are one year removed from an appearance in the national championship game. And this has all happened while Michigan has managed to have only one season with more than eight wins since 2007. The task of beating all three of its rivals is difficult enough when Michigan is at its peak, having done it only twice since 1991. Not even the biggest Michigan homer can expect the Wolverines to pull it off this year given the current state of these four programs.

To make matters worse, Michigan does not even have the luxury of hosting one of its rivals at Michigan Stadium this season. Instead, the Wolverines must face all three of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State on the road for the first time in school history. This is a nightmare scenario for a program that has struggled on the road against quality competition. Michigan has lost its last 10 true road games against teams ranked in the AP Top 25. The last road win against such a foe was against No. 2 Notre Dame in 2006. Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State likely will be ranked in the AP Top 25 when Michigan steps on the gridiron with them. The idea that Michigan will end this extended road drought by sweeping them is ludicrous. Michigan fans should consider just one win versus its rivals this year as progress.

If Michigan can beat just one rival this fall, the pick should be the one in Columbus (Detroit News)

If Michigan can beat just one rival this fall, the pick should be the one in Columbus (Detroit News)

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s break down which rival Michigan fans should most want the Wolverines to beat this season:

Notre Dame: Nothing would be sweeter than getting the last word in a rivalry that has all but disintegrated. Notre Dame stuck it to Michigan by notifying athletic director Dave Brandon just minutes before the two teams kicked off in 2012 that the Fighting Irish were putting the rivalry on pause after 2014. This was a shock to Michigan. Earlier that summer, Michigan and Notre Dame jointly announced that there would a two-year hiatus in 2018 and 2019 to allow the schools to schedule some new, fresh competition. It was supposed to be a short recess, not a permanent vacation.

Yet this fall will be the last Michigan-Notre Dame clash for the foreseeable future. Michigan reportedly has locked in its premium non-conference opponents through 2023. None are Notre Dame. With the Big Ten adding a ninth conference game to the slate in 2016, Michigan likely will not seek to add a second premium non-conference opponent. And Notre Dame’s affiliation with the ACC limits its availability. Therefore, a win in September would give Michigan bragging rights over the Fighting Irish for the next decade or two.

Nonetheless, Notre Dames is a non-conference rival. It always is enjoyable to watch Michigan’s quarterbacks torch the Fighting Irish, but the wins have no impact on its goal to win a Big Ten championship. Yes, wins against Notre Dame provide the Wolverines an added boost heading into the conference season. However, the significance of those wins pales in comparison to Michigan’s wins against conference rivals, Michigan State and Ohio State. Plus, unlike MSU and OSU, Michigan has had Notre Dame’s number recently, winning six of the last eight meetings. While Michigan would like to make it seven of the last nine, a win here is not nearly as important is would be later in the season.

Michigan State: In 2007, after a fourth-quarter, comeback win against Michigan State, then-Michigan running back Mike Hart claimed that Michigan State was Michigan’s “little brother.” Yet, since those infamous words were spoken, Michigan State has had the upper hand on Michigan. The Wolverines have suffered defeat in five of the six meetings against MSU that followed. Michigan has not had this much trouble with its in-state rival since before Bo Schembechler first arrived in Ann Arbor in 1969.

Accordingly, Michigan State has seen its stock rise to levels it has not experienced in decades. The Spartans are piling up wins, conference championships, and even their first Rose Bowl victory since 1988. Whether Michigan fans want to acknowledge it or not, Michigan State has become a Big Ten power under Mark Dantonio. Even recruits are taking notice as some of Michigan’s top high school talent has begun to favor the Spartans over the Wolverines. This is a trend that Michigan needs to stop in its tracks instantly. The first step to doing so is to beat the Spartans in East Lansing this season.

However …

Ohio State: No matter how compelling an argument one can make that Michigan State is the most important game on Michigan’s schedule this season, no game is more important than “The Game.” A rival against whom Michigan has had a poor six-year stretch does not replace the rival with whom Michigan has created college football’s best rivalry as the most important on the schedule. Sorry. No chance. Yes, a Michigan win against Michigan State would be quite significant for U-M’s future prosperity, but it will never define an entire Michigan season like a win against Ohio State does.

So, if Michigan can beat only one rival this season, it is Ohio State. No ifs, ands, or buts. Of course, I would not mind if Michigan shocked the world and beat all three.

Should we consider [Michigan football commit] Shaun Crawford as good as gone? –Bill (@BillOffer)

Not yet. Initially, when it was confirmed that 2015 four-star defensive back Shaun Crawford had visited Notre Dame last weekend, it looked grim for Michigan. Brady Hoke has a well-publicized policy that discourages current commits from visiting other schools. The policy is simple, even if it has been misinterpreted repeatedly:

If a Michigan commit visits another school, the staff will no longer guarantee the prospect a spot in the class. This does not mean that Michigan will banish the prospect from being a member of its recruiting class, though, as some have claimed. In most cases, Michigan still will want that prospect to be in its class and “re-commit” as soon as he is sure he does not want to take anymore visits. But Michigan may look at other prospects to fill the new vacancy. Nothing is guaranteed. That is the risk of taking visits.

Despite a wandering eye, Crawford shouldn't be considered gone just yet (247 Sports)

Despite a wandering eye, Crawford shouldn’t be considered gone just yet (247 Sports)

With Crawford’s visit to Notre Dame, his spot in Michigan’s class was no longer guaranteed. Although this does not result in an automatic decommitment, most Michigan commits who visit elsewhere tend to decommit because their spot is no longer guaranteed anyway. However, multiple outlets reported that Crawford wanted to remain a Michigan commit despite his wandering eye. It appeared he still favored the Wolverines, but did not want to be forced out by a policy he felt was hypocritical. But Crawford had yet to speak with Hoke about visiting elsewhere. Once Crawford had that conversation with Hoke, I expected that Crawford would decommit and that it would be the beginning of the end.

Yet, according to Rivals’ Josh Helmholdt ($), Crawford stated that he spoke with the Michigan staff on Tuesday night and still is a Michigan commit. Crawford also told Helmholdt that he will continue to look at other schools, which includes a trip to Ohio State soon. It appears that Crawford has gotten what he wanted: to remain a Michigan commit while looking around.

This is good news for Michigan. If Michigan had forced Crawford to decommit, the odds of him recommitting would have been slim to none. Crawford likely would have become frustrated with Hoke’s no-visit policy and disillusioned with the idea of playing football for him in Ann Arbor. Instead, Crawford maintains his commitment with Michigan, which indicates the Wolverines still are the leader for his services. Of course, this could change down the road if Notre Dame, Ohio State, or even Miami (FL) persuades him to make a switch. But this is the life of recruiting. And the odds of this happening would have been much higher if Crawford had decommitted from Michigan.

Plus, Crawford is a commit Michigan wants to keep. Most recruiting services consider Crawford to be in the top 100 of the 2015 class or just outside of it. He is a talented player from the state of Ohio that grew up a Michigan fan. This is not the type of recruit that Michigan can afford to lose right now, especially when Michigan has already lost two other top-50 commits from the 2015 class in running back Damien Harris and wide receiver George Campbell. At the moment, Michigan does not appear to have lost Crawford, but this will be a recruitment we will need to keep our eyes on the next few months.

If you have any questions related to Michigan athletics that you want answered in the next mailbag, please tweet them to @DrewCHallett on Twitter or email them to drew.maizeandgoblue@gmail.com.