Back to the Future
The Schembechler-era (1969-2007) is over. The Rodriguez-era (2007-20??) has begun. Despite the fact that there were two head football coaches that followed Bo [Gary Moeller (1990-1994) and Lloyd Carr (1995-2007)], most observers count the past 18 years as part of the Schembechler years as both men were assistants under Bo and continued the Bo way of doing things. However, the hiring of Coach Rodriguez -an outsider- has brought an end to the Schembechler reign. This is the first time Michigan has gone outside the program for a hire since the hiring of Bo Schembechler himself prior to the 1969 season. In fact, there are many parallels that can be drawn to Bo's first days as Michigan Head Coach and Coach Rod's first days at the helm of the Wolverines. There are also some important distinctions.
When Bo was hired by A.D. Don Canham in December, 1968, he had been the Head Coach at Miami (Ohio) University for the previous six years amassing a 40-17-3 record. Bo replaced Bump Elliott who had coached the Wolverines for 10 seasons. The Wolverines were coming off a humiliating loss to Ohio State by the score of 50-14 that had ended Michigan's season. Ohio State went on to win the National Championship that season. When Bo came on as Head Coach, Bump Elliott was moved up into the Athletic Dept. as an Associate Athletic Director. Bo thought to be successful he needed to have his own people with him so he brought six assistants from Miami University. Bo retained two assistants (George Mans & Frank Maloney) that had been on the Michigan staff and Bo brought in one assistant (Louie Lee) from the outside.
Bo held his first team meeting in January, 1969. Bo decided to set the tone right from the beginning. He wrote that his entire focus was to beat Ohio State. Back then, the Michigan Football program had fallen on hard times. Bo has written that when Don Canham took over the athletic department from Fritz Crisler in 1968, the year before he hired Bo, Canham inherited a $250,000 debt, a half-empty football stadium, and facilities that were about to collapse. Bo noted that Michigan had won just one Big Ten title in the previous 18 years. That was all about to change. One of the first things Bo did to set the tone was to mandate the players' living arrangements. "From now on," Bo said, "everyone is going to live in the city of Ann Arbor. Freshmen and sophomores are going to live in the dormitories, upperclassmen will live in apartments near campus, and married students will live in university married housing." After the initial meeting was over, Bo concluded he had accomplished his goal. Bo wrote, "I wasn't there to tell them how great they were. I was there to change the tone of that team. From the looks on their faces after I finished, you'd have to say I succeeded. "
When Coach Rod was hired by A.D. Bill Martin in December, 2007, he had been the Head Coach at West Virginia University for the previous seven seasons amassing a 60-26 record. Coach Rod replaced Lloyd Carr who had coached the Wolverines for 13 seasons. The Wolverines were coming off another tough loss to Ohio State (fourth in a row). Ohio State went on to play in the BCS National Championship title game. When Coach Rod came on as Head Coach, Lloyd Carr moved up into administration in the Athletic Dept. as an Associate Athletic Director. Coach Rod thought to be successful he needed to have his own people with him so he brought six assistants from West Virginia University. He retained one assistant (Fred Jackson) that had been on the Michigan staff and he brought in two assistants (Scott Shafer and Jay Hopson) from the outside.
Coach Rod held his first team meeting on Monday, January 7, 2008. Coach Rod is bringing a new scheme (the spread offense) into the program and he wants the players to sign on to the (radical) changes that are being made. Coach Rod is taking over a program that has won 8 Big Ten titles and a National Championship in the 18 seasons since Bo stepped down after the 1989 season. Additionally, the program has had 200+ consecutive home games of 100,000 or more fans in attendance. Nevertheless, Coach Rod wants to implement change. He wants to do things his way to keep the program moving forward. During his first week, he revolutionized the weight room. During the week of January 7th, Coach Rod held two team meetings and he let the players know that he and the assistant coaches would be dropping by the players' residences to check on them and their living situations. Regarding his players embracing his program, Coach Rod was quoted in The Free Press as saying, "They're all either fully committed or they're not committed at all. There ain't no halfway." I would say that Coach Rodriguez, like Bo before him, is setting a tone. Go Blue!
*Note: Photo of Coach Schembechler from collection of Bentley Historical Library, U-M.
*Note 2: Photo of Coach Rodriguez standing on sidelines during 2008 Capital One Bowl by REINHOLD MATAY/AP Photo