Oct. 19, 2013
By Courtney Ratkowiak
Bill Mallory has three framed photos in his home office in Bloomington, Ind.
The first is from Sept. 29, 1984. Bill was in the middle of his first year as the Indiana head coach, and his oldest son, Mike, was a captain at Michigan. The Wolverines defeated Indiana, 14-6, in Bloomington. After celebrating the win, Mike walked over to the other side to put his arm around his dad.
The second is from Oct. 24, 1987. By this time, Bill had established himself in Bloomington, and his middle son, Doug, was a captain at Michigan. This time, Indiana had just defeated Michigan, 14-10. After the game, Doug walked over to the other side to shake his father's hand.
The third is from Oct. 17, 1992. By this time, Bill was well on his way to becoming the winningest coach in Indiana football history, and his youngest son, Curt Mallory, was a student assistant on Gary Moeller's Michigan staff. During pregame preparations, Curt walked over to the other side to share a few last words with his father before their teams faced off on the gridiron.
From the photos, it's clear that seeing an immediate family member on the other sideline is nothing new for the Mallory family.
The three brothers now have a combined 73 years of coaching experience for 22 colleges and two NFL teams. Mike, the current special teams coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars, coached against both of his brothers during his college coaching career.
But when Michigan and Indiana meet Saturday (Oct. 19) at Michigan Stadium, the two youngest Mallory sons -- Doug, the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Indiana, and Curt, the secondary coach for the Wolverines -- will face off for the first time.
As kids, the Mallory brothers were ball boys for their father while he rose up through the head coaching ranks at Miami (Ohio), Colorado and Northern Illinois. Watching their father on the football field and seeing his love for the game he taught made it easy for all three Mallory brothers to make coaching a goal after college.
The Mallory Michigan tradition began in the fall of 1982, when Mike, the oldest son, became the first to play for Bo Schembechler. The Mallory family already knew Bo well. Bo had played five years before Bill at Miami and coached at Bowling Green State University a couple of years before Bill began his coaching career there as a graduate assistant. In 1969, the same year Curt was born, Bill took the Miami head coaching job after Bo left Oxford for Ann Arbor.
Long before recruiting all three of Bill's sons, Bo also had coached Bill's younger brother, Dave, at Miami. Dave's experience paved the way for the next Mallory generation to play for Bo.
"I wanted the boys to play for me, but I really made it very clear to them it was their call, not mine," Bill said. "Bo had such an impact on Dave, and he was so indebted, he named his son after Bo. When Bo contacted me and said he was interested in Mike ... I said that would be a great situation, and he wouldn't play for a better person."
Two years after Mike left for Ann Arbor, Doug chose to follow his older brother to Ann Arbor. While Doug, Mike and the Wolverines were in New Orleans for the 1984 Sugar Bowl against Auburn, Bill Mallory accepted the head coaching job at Indiana, where he remained for the next 13 years.
In 1988, it was Curt's turn to decide where to go to college. After going to high school in Bloomington, with his father already established at a Big Ten school but with his two brothers successful under Bo at Michigan, his decision was the hardest of the three Mallory sons.
"We all had ambitions of playing for our dad," Curt said. "My dad sat down with me one night and said, 'You can go to a lot of places to play football, so I'm going to let you make a decision, but you have to make it between Indiana and Michigan.' He said it kind of jokingly, but in all seriousness, he knew coming to Michigan, I'd be taken care of."
Curt chose to play in Ann Arbor, and after graduating from Michigan, he joined his father's staff at Indiana as a graduate assistant. The following year, in 1994, Doug joined his father's staff as an assistant and the two youngest sons worked together for one season.
"Just having that one year to work with him, you could see early on he was going to be successful in this profession," Doug said. "He brings a lot of energy. On the practice field, he runs more than some of his players. He's always been kind of an overachiever, an extremely hard worker."
After that season, Doug and Curt's coaching paths diverged. Doug left Bloomington for coaching stints at Maryland, Oklahoma State, LSU and New Mexico before returning to Indiana in December 2010. Curt coached at Ball State and Central Michigan, briefly returned to Indiana, and then coached at Illinois and Akron before accepting the job as the Michigan secondary coach in 2011.
Today's matchup poses a unique cheering problem for the Mallory family. When the Mallory boys played against their father, the family allegiance was clear.
"My mom (Ellie) was always cheering for Indiana, which was fine," Curt said. "She wanted us to do well, but at the end of the day, you knew you were up against family."
But now that the Mallory sons are coaching against each other, the family is more conflicted.
"This year, (Ellie) is kind of struggling. She's just going to go and watch it and support both," Bill said. "And I was thinking the other day, 'What the heck am I going to wear?' I'm not cheering either way -- deep down, I hope it's a close game. It's important to both of them, and I realize that because I've been there."
Doug's visit to Ann Arbor this weekend is his first since returning for Bo's funeral in 2006. This time, he is traveling to his alma mater as an assistant coach at the program his father built, with his younger brother on the opposite sideline and his entire extended family in the stands. But, as it was in the photo 26 years ago, it will be family time only after the game clock hits zero.
"I had a great five years at Michigan, the greatest five years of my life," Doug said. "Being there in the Big House will bring back a lot of memories, and seeing Curt there will be different, but once the game gets going, it's a football game and that's where my focus will be."