Bo Memorial Looked More Like Football Saturday

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Michigan football greats from Desmond Howard to Dan Dierdorf passed through the tunnel and onto the field at Michigan Stadium. Many slapped the "GO BLUE" banner as they did when they played for Bo Schembechler's Wolverines.

The band pounded out the school's famous fight song "The Victors" and the national anthem preceded the afternoon event.

It was just like a football Saturday in Ann Arbor, except this time it was a Tuesday. And in this case, those sitting in their seats at the Big House were mourning Schembechler, not cheering him.

Schembechler died Friday at 77, ending a long battle with heart disease and diabetes, the day before his beloved Wolverines were beaten by rival Ohio State 42-39.

"He told me many times, `Football should be played in the afternoons.' He would not stand for a 3:30 start or an 8 o'clock start. Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, toe meets leather at 1:14 exactly," said Jim Brandstatter, a former Michigan football player and the master of ceremonies.

Fans, family, players and university officials paid tribute to the famed coach during "A Celebration of Bo's Life." Many recounted stories of the fiery coach, including former running back Jamie Morris, who paused to regain his composure during his comments.

Speakers sat on a podium that was set up on the sideline that Schembechler roamed years ago.

The man who currently walks the Michigan sideline, coach Lloyd Carr, talked about the man who first hired him as an assistant coach in 1980.

"I coached for 10 years with this man, stood by his side. There was never a moment where I thought that Bo Schembechler had a doubt about himself," he said. "Bo always knew what he wanted."

Carr looked out at those who braved the chilly fall temperatures to attend, many wearing Michigan hats and jackets.

"There's no game today, but you're here because of what he was," Carr said.

"His integrity was larger than this stadium, and it shaped all that he was," university President Mary Sue Coleman said.

Guard Reggie McKenzie, a college football hall of famer who played for Schembechler, asked the dozens of former players in attendance to get out of their seats.

"At this time, I would like all of `Bo's Boys' to stand," he said.

After they did, McKenzie said: "Ladies and gentlemen, would you do me a favor and stand with `Boy's Boys' and give Bo Schembechler the standing ovation he richly deserves?"

Everyone in the stadium stood in unison and let out a roar.

Other speakers included former Southern Cal coach John Robinson and Gary Moeller, Schembechler's successor as Michigan's coach.

Michigan Stadium's main gates at Stadium and Main were adorned with maize and blue balloons and pieces of paper with messages such as: "We will miss you."

At Schembechler Hall, where the football team practices and Schembechler kept an office down the hall from the current coaches, a shrine stood as a testament to what he meant to so many in this southeastern Michigan college town and beyond.

A No. 7 blue jersey was stuck to the frosted ground next to a No. 12 white jersey and in between was Schembechler's signature hat, featuring a block `M' with yellow stitching.

Football-shaped balloons were taped on the Schembechler Hall sign and in front of it, a white candle flickered. Someone also had left a ticket stub from the Ball State game on Nov. 4, the last time Schembechler watched a Michigan game in person. It carried the message: "RIP Bo Thanks Terry and Mike" written on it with a black marker.

"I just wanted to come out and give my respects to the greatest coach who ever lived," said Tom Catterall, 51, of Ypsilanti. "He was revered as a coach separate from the University of Michigan and as a man. I thought a man like this, the only way to honor him was to come out on a cold day like this and pay my respects."

Jim Valensky, 52, of Ann Arbor, said: "He was a true, true good man and more than a coach."

A private funeral was held Monday and hundreds of mourners filed past Schembechler's casket Sunday at an Ann Arbor church.

Schembechler coached at Michigan from 1969-89, ending his career with 194 wins at what is college football's winningest program. His career record was 234-65-8, including six seasons at Miami of Ohio.