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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Michigan Remembers Bo

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- 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.


Items were left by well wishers outside Schembechler Hall prior to a public celebration of life for former coach Bo Schembechler at Michigan Stadium.
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 in the stands at the Big House were mourning Schembechler, not cheering him.

Fans, family, players and university officials paid tribute to the famed coach during "A Celebration of Bo's Life." Speakers sat on a podium set up on the sideline that Schembechler roamed years ago.

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

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

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

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

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."

Jim Brandstatter, a former Michigan football player, was master of ceremonies.

"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," Brandstatter said.

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 college town and beyond.

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

"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."

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

Football-shaped balloons were taped on the Schembechler Hall sign. In front of it, a white candle flickered. Someone left a ticket stub from the Ball State game 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.

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.

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