Bo Schembechler Dies at 77

One of the great all-time college football coaches, Bo Schembechler, passed away Friday. Through a CU spokesperson, former Colorado coach Bill McCartney addressed the passing of his longtime friend and mentor.

Bo Schembechler coached the Michigan Wolverines to glory. Schembechler took Big Blue to 17 bowl games in his 21 seasons at the helm in Ann Arbor, and coached Michigan to 13 Big Ten Championships. Schembechler died Friday after collapsing during the taping of a television show in Michigan, according to the Associated Press. He was 77.

Former Colorado coach Bill McCartney coached for eight-and-a-half years under Schembechler after Bo hired McCartney away from a Detroit high school in 1974. McCartney grew into a valuable assistant under Schembechler until 1982, when McCartney took the job at Colorado.

Through a CU spokesperson Friday, McCartney said he was at the store this afternoon, and had four messages on his cell phone alerting him to his former boss' passing when he got done shopping.

"When Lyndi (McCartney) got the news, she just wept," McCartney said in a released statement. "We loved the guy; he meant so much to us and to our family."

McCartney modeled the Colorado football program after what he learned from Schembechler at Michigan.

"He was tremendous student of the game and was a dynamic leader," McCartney said. "He was a disciplinarian, but his players loved him. He was the kind of the guy who ran a tough, hard-nosed program."

Schembechler resurrected a once proud Michigan program when he took the reins in 1969 and brought it back to national prominence. When he retired after the 1989 season, Schembechler had more wins (234, including 40 at Miami of Ohio) than any Division I coach at the time.

"Fame can come in a moment, but greatness comes with longevity," McCartney said. "You may be able to do it once, but can you do it again? He was great because he did it over two decades, and that is how you measure greatness. You measure the body of work, year-after-year."

Former CU athletic director Eddie Crowder hired McCartney at Colorado on the advice of Schembechler.

Crowder explained recently to BSN how he spoke with Schembecler about McCartney, a Michigan assistant at the time, when he was looking to hire a CU football coach.

"I picked up the phone and called Bo Schembechler. I had gotten to know Bo over the years," Crowder said. "I told him …first, ‘I don't want to tamper with your staff. I realize you've got a season that's going to start in about 10 weeks.' And he said, ‘I would endorse your offering him the job because he's worthy of it.' He said, ‘He deserves it. He's been a loyalist to me and our program. He's done a brilliant job.'

"I told him my criteria," Crowder continued. "I wanted a guy who is of impeccable character. Not going to get into any problems with the NCAA, not going to have problems in the community. But he had to be just a driven, competitive person. And he had to be an immensely effective recruiter. I had to know that he's a man of victory.

"He said, ‘You just described McCartney. Hire him.'"

McCartney went on to become the most successful coach at CU, leading the Buffs to a national title in 1990.

"To me, he was the consummate coach," McCartney said of Schembechler. "When he got done coaching, he was still giving to the game. He only got out because of his health, and knew he couldn't put his body under that kind of constant pressure. But he stayed as close to the game as he could. Right on up until he died, he was a big part of the Michigan football program. I was told he spoke the team just the night before (he died). They named a Fieldhouse and a beautiful complex after him; he will be remembered forever."

McCartney plans to travel to Michigan for Schembechler's funeral.

"I am like everyone who ever played or coached for him, making arrangements to go back to the funeral, and I don't think there will be enough room wherever they hold it," McCartney said. "Everyone will be there, that's what he meant to those who came in contact with him."


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