Schembechler collapses, dies at 77

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- In the end, Michigan vs. Ohio State may have been too much for Bo Schembechler's failing heart.

The man with half-century-old roots to The Game died at age 77 on Friday -- the eve of perhaps the biggest matchup in the storied rivalry's history, No 1 vs. No. 2, and his doctor said it might have been because of all the excitement.

Schembechler, who became one of college football's great coaches in two decades at Michigan, collapsed at the studios of WXYZ-TV in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, where he taped a weekly show. He was pronounced dead a little more than two hours later at nearby Providence Hospital.

"It's fair to say Bo wanted to live his life with vigor," said Dr. Kim Eagle, Schembechler's physician. "Ironically, he and I were going to see each other yesterday, but he wanted to address the team."

Could the stress of Saturday's game have caused his death?

"I believe that's entirely possible," Eagle said.

Schembechler had a device that worked as a pacemaker and defibrillator implanted just last month after his heart raced as he left the same TV studio.

Doctors said he didn't have a heart attack Friday as much as his heart just quit working.

"The electrical part of the heart was working fine, but the mechanical part was not working," said Dr. Shukri David, the hospital's head of cardiology. "The heart was sending signals to the heart muscle to contract. The muscle was not responding."

Getting worked up before a big game was nothing new for Schembechler. He had a heart attack on the eve of his first Rose Bowl in 1970 and another one in 1987, and had two quadruple heart-bypass operations. He also had diabetes.

"The fact that he lived to this day is nothing short of a miracle," Eagle said.

Schembechler played for Woody Hayes at Miami of Ohio, began his coaching career as a graduate assistant for Hayes at Ohio State and then, in his first season at Michigan in 1969, knocked off Hayes' unbeaten Buckeyes.

"This is an extraordinary loss for college football," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said in a statement. "Bo Schembechler touched the lives of many people and made the game of football better in every way. He will always be both a Buckeye and a Wolverine and our thoughts are with all who grieve his loss."

This year's Michigan players, who were toddlers when Schembechler's career was winding down in the late 1980s, were somber Friday afternoon as they left the building that bears his name and boarded buses for the 3½-hour drive to Columbus, Ohio.

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, who was hired by Schembechler in 1980, wiped a tear off his cheek as he sat in the front row of the first bus that pulled out of Ann Arbor.

"We have lost a giant at Michigan and in college football," Carr said in a statement. "There was never a greater ambassador for the University of Michigan, or college football, than Bo. Personally, I have lost a man I love."

Schembechler's health prevented him from traveling to road games in recent years, but he planned to watch the 103rd Michigan-Ohio State matchup at home on his new 50-inch TV.

A moment of silence is planned before the game.

Schembechler was a seven-time Big Ten coach of the year, compiling a 194-48-5 record at Michigan from 1969-89. His record in 26 years of coaching was 234-65-8. He never had a losing season.

"I'm not sure he has gotten his due as far as being one of the truly great football coaches of all time," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. "I'm going to miss him."

Schembechler was 11-9-1 against the Buckeyes. From 1969-78 he opposed Hayes in what's known as "The 10-Year War" and Michigan was 5-4-1 during that stretch.

"It was a very personal rivalry," Earle Bruce, who succeeded Hayes as coach, once said. "And for the first and only time, it was as much about the coaches as it was about the game.

"Bo and Woody were very close because Bo played for Woody at Miami of Ohio, then coached with him at Ohio State. But their friendship was put on hold when Bo took the Michigan job because it was the protege against mentor."

Thirteen of Schembechler's Michigan teams either won or shared the Big Ten championship. Fifteen of them finished in The Associated Press Top 10, with the 1985 team finishing No. 2.

Seventeen of Schembechler's 21 Michigan teams earned bowl berths, but despite a .796 regular-season winning percentage, his bowl record was a disappointing 5-12, including 2-8 in the Rose Bowl.

The mythical national championship eluded Schembechler, but he said that never bothered him.

"If you think my career has been a failure because I have never won a national title, you have another think coming," Schembechler said a few weeks before coaching his final game. "I have never played a game for the national title. Our goals always have been to win the Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl. If we do that, then we consider it a successful season."

His last game as Wolverines coach was a 17-10 loss to Southern California in the 1990 Rose Bowl. One week later, Schembechler, who also had been serving as Michigan athletic director since July 1988, was hired as president of the Detroit Tigers.

Schembechler's signature moment as athletic director probably came in March 1989, when basketball coach Bill Frieder accepted a job at Arizona State on the eve of the NCAA Tournament.

An angry Schembechler declared, "A Michigan man will coach Michigan, not an Arizona State man." He refused to accept Frieder's 21-day notice and named assistant Steve Fisher the interim coach. The Wolverines went on to win the national championship by beating Seton Hall 80-79 in overtime.

Schembechler's tenure as Tigers president from 1990-92 was less rewarding.

He was blamed for firing beloved broadcaster Ernie Harwell after the 1991 season, but WJR general manager Jim Long later said he was the one who did not want Harwell back. Schembechler hired extra coaches for every farm team, upgraded all the facilities and introduced football-style strength and conditioning programs. But those moves bore little fruit at the big-league level.

The Tigers' last winning season was in 1993 until they advanced to the World Series this season.

Tigers owner Tom Monaghan fired Schembechler as Tigers president the day before he sold the team to Mike Ilitch in August 1992 -- and 13 days before Schembechler's wife, Millie, died at age 63 of adrenal cancer. Schembechler sued, claiming Monaghan had broken a contract the Domino's Pizza owner had jotted down on a napkin. They settled out of court in 1994.

Schembechler was an intense disciplinarian, and his gruff persona belied devotion to his players, both during and after their playing days in Ann Arbor.

"He preached the team from Day One, and it's still being taught now," offensive guard Reggie McKenzie, who played for Schembechler from 1969-71, said when he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003.

McKenzie said Schembechler's iron hand almost prompted him to quit. But he added: "I learned to beat him by doing it the right way every time, all the time. That's the attitude we had at Michigan."

Schembechler was born April 1, 1929, in Barberton, Ohio. He graduated in 1951 from Miami of Ohio and earned a master's degree in 1952 at Ohio State.

After serving in the Army, Schembechler held assistant coaching jobs at Presbyterian College in 1954 and Bowling Green in 1955, then joined Ara Parseghian's staff at Northwestern in 1958 before returning to Ohio State as an assistant to Hayes.

Schembechler became head coach at Miami of Ohio in 1963, winning two Mid-American Conference titles in six seasons. In 1969, he took over a Michigan program that had endured losing seasons in six of the previous 11 years.

Schembechler was inducted into the Miami University Hall of Fame in 1972, the State of Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1989, the University of Michigan Hall of Honor in 1992, the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1993 and the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1993.

Bo and Millie Schembechler, his second wife, had one son, Glenn III. Schembechler and his third wife, Cathy, married in 1993.

"We truly lost a great man, husband, coach and mentor," former Michigan running back Billy Taylor, who played on Schembechler's first team in 1969, said from his car outside Schembechler Hall. "People like Bo come around once in a lifetime."