When you think of Michigan football, you think of Big Ten titles, you think of “The Team” and “those who stay”, you speak of Ten Year Wars with a man named Hayes, you also think of the beginning of one of the greatest eras of Michigan football the University has ever seen. All of this was started by a man from Ohio
That man was Bo Schembechler.
Unfortunately, Schembechler suddenly passed away in 2006, but his spirit will always live on. Especially in the Big House.
Though I will never get the chance to speak with Bo, I managed to track down a direct descendent of his, his son Glenn “Shemy” Schembechler. I was fortunate enough to be able to ask him a few questions about his legendary father.
JH: I have spoken with Jim Brandstatter about Bo and he mentioned that he wasn’t well liked by the players when he first arrived to Michigan due to his coaching style. What was Bo like as a father compared to what the players and fans would see on the football field?
GS: Bo was an extremely focused individual. So, if you were able to get his attention at home, it meant that you had done a great job. As he was as a coach, he was always tough but equally as honest which that you always knew where you stood. So, you could hate him, but it certainly was a waste of time. Bo did not care if you liked him or not, but in the end he always had your best interests in mind. Ultimately, most, if not all the players loved him. If they did not, that was their problem, shame on them.
I was never a great student in the classroom but whatever I put my mind to, I was usually successful and that was good enough for him. That is what really gave me a lot of confidence to excel at whatever I decided to do in life.
JH: What is it like knowing that your dad is viewed as a legend on campus? Recently, Jim Harbaugh was quoted as saying that the word of Bo was very close to the word of God. How does that make you feel knowing that those words are about your own father?
GS: Bo never viewed himself as a legend, but he was never uncomfortable with it. He could share moments with all types of people and make them feel special. There was not anyone that he couldn’t coach or motivate after spending just a little bit of time with. If that is what Jim thought, so be it. But Bo was always too humble to think of himself in those terms. The idea that he always thought he was just one of the team made him the great leader that he was.
JH: “Those who stay” and “The Team” are synonymous with Bo. Did he have any sayings or give you any speeches when you were a kid that have stuck with you to this day? Similar to what Michigan fans use as lore.
GS: The thing that stuck out about his speeches were his passion first and foremost but also his attention to detail about the emotions and the thought process that allowed him to reach the decisions that he did. But the lessons that have stuck with me the most are not so much the speeches, but the heart-to-heart talks we had. The first example would be honest at all cost. The other, whatever you do, do it with the very best effort. If you do just these two things, your TEAM will undoubtedly benefit.
JH: 2006 was a tumultuous time for your family. After your father passed, what was it like to see the outpouring of support to your family from people all over the country. Especially from Ohio State fans who participated in the moment of silence before The Game as well?
GS: It was great. My wife Megan and I had originally planned on attending the game but obviously stayed back in Ann Arbor to prepare for the funeral. I cannot say it was surprising as the Ohio faithful remembered one of their native sons. But to say it was emotional was a complete understatement. The relationships that I have forged here in Columbus have been nothing short of outstanding from not only the general public, but also the old guard that were here when Woody was coaching.
JH: I know a lot of people who reference how Bo would be “angry” at what Michigan football turned into during the time Rich Rod coached. What would you think would be your father’s reaction to the record breaking losses and changes Rodriguez implemented to the program that have never been seen before?
GS: I do not want to put words in my fathers’ mouth as to what he would have said or done. But I can assure you this, that if he were alive at the time Coach Carr retired, that he would’ve had major input and decision making capacity in selecting the next coach.
JH: In your opinion, looking at Bo the Michigan coach, what is your greatest moment or memory from the time he was coaching the Wolverines?
GS: The victory over Ohio State in 1969 is by far my favorite moment. Just because I was only 3 months old does not mean that I can revel in it later in life. It is without a doubt the single greatest achievement in my fathers’ coaching career as it put the rest of the Big Ten conference as well as the rest of college football on notice that Michigan football would be a dominant force as long as Bo was the coach. The idea that the Michigan program won so consistently while upholding the greatest levels of honesty and integrity will go down in college football history as one of the greatest achievements that we will ever witness.
JH: A lot of fans are looking for the next Bo in a Michigan coach. Though there will never be another coach like Bo, do you feel Brady Hoke and staff are the next best thing?
GS: I think that it’s unfair to compare any coach. Especially when it comes to Michigan. Each coach brings his own values and determination to the job at hand. In looking at Brady, having known him since the early 90’s, I have found a man with great values and insurmountable respect for the game and the players that play it. Especially the student athletes that come through the doors at Schembechler Hall. He is a true ambassador not only for the athletic department but also the University of Michigan as a whole. We as the Michigan faithful are very blessed to have him coach our team.