Memories From the Press Box: Jerry Hanlon

Oct. 22, 2009

At the conclusion of the 2009 football season, the existing press box, which dates to the 1950s, will be torn down. Over the last several decades, countless memorable moments have been witnessed from the nerve center of the stadium.

In honor of this last season with the proud, old press box, an on-going feature called "Memories From the Press Box" will run on and in each U-M football game program. Written by the individuals who witnessed these moments from above, "Memories" will offer a different perspective of the events many of us remember after seeing them in person or watching them on TV. In some cases, it's describing pre-game rituals, in many cases, it's a specific game or play that took their breath away. Sportscasters, former coaches, athletic department staff, University President Mary Sue Coleman, they are but a few of the contributors who will be featured weekly. We hope you enjoy it! Echoes of the Old "Box"

On the Phone with Bo Schembechler High Above Michigan Stadium

BY JERRY HANLON / Former Michigan Football Assistant Coach

I stood on the 50-yard line and surveyed the upper ring of Michigan Stadium. The new brick structure certainly changes the ambience of this proud, old stadium. From the understated look that greeted visitors who were in awe when they entered and saw the big hole in the ground, they now approach a monstrous structure adding to the awe-inspiring arena. I spoke with Brent Musburger at a basketball game last season and he said it looked like the old Roman Coliseum. I said I agreed, and last year we were the Christians. But it's true it is an intimidating structure.

As I looked up from my vantage point at midfield, my eyes focused on what seemed an out-of-place structure tucked in under the new construction. It was almost dwarfed by the brick work surrounding it. It appeared old and outdated, but to this old coach it is a mausoleum of beautiful memories and a few heartbreaks. For many years I climbed the steps from the floor of the stadium to take my place in a booth to communicate by phone to the sideline where Bo strode back and forth. I would like to have had recordings of some of those conversations; while a few would need to be edited, they would prove interesting.

The view from my perch allowed me to view the action, call plays, and make adjustments which I hope aided in the many victories during the Bo and Mo eras. Later, when I retired from coaching, I moved down the hall of the press box and took a spot in the WJR booth. I had the privilege to broadcast the Wolverines' games with Frank Beckmann and to remain close to the program. I tried to give the listeners a coach's view of the game in terms they could understand. It certainly helped in the transition from coaching, which had been my life's work.

I still roam the nooks and crannies of the Michigan press box. I stop on the press level and in various booths on the upper floor. I don't stay too long in one place. It is great to visit with all the wonderful Michigan men and women who return to the campus for a football Saturday. To see President Coleman, Lloyd Carr, Sally Martin, Steve Ross, Al Glick, Don Lund and Gary Moeller all there with a common purpose to support our beloved Michigan Maize and Blue.

I'd be remiss if I didn't thank Bruce Madej and his loyal staff, many of who are volunteer workers. They make a trip to the press box memorable and enjoyable for all who enter that old rectangle so in need of updates. The spirits of Bob Ufer, Don Canham, Joe Falls, John Hannen and many others will waft in the space above sections 21 through 25 for time immemorial.

When I was asked to write about the box, I was asked to recall some of my most vivid memories. I recall my first game. Early in my tenure I would leave the locker room, almost sprint across the field and up the steps to my spot. Bo wanted me on the phone when he picked it up. In early days, it was rather easy to traverse the stadium, which was, to say the least, not filled to capacity. As winning occurred, the crowds increased, making it difficult to bound up crowded aisles filled with fans. I later skipped going to the locker room pre-game, and had a police car drive us from the locker room to the old press gate at halftime in order to be ready for kickoff.

The booth in the press box was my home on game day. I have never witnessed a game from the sideline in Michigan Stadium. As television began to air our games and showed the personnel on the sideline, my sainted mother inquired if I really coached at Michigan since I never appeared on TV. But I did make my way there at least on one occasion. On November 22, 1969, as the last two minutes ticked off the clock, I made my way down those steps to enjoy the euphoria of my greatest moment in Michigan Stadium. There were many memorable times right up to Greg Mathews' catch against Notre Dame this year, but that 1969 victory over Ohio State will be forever be etched in my brain and in my heart. That group of coaches and young men taught me the true values of college football. All those clichéd words -- hard work, discipline, loyalty, trust and belief in yourself and your teammates -- were proven on that glorious late fall afternoon. That '69 team will be here again this year. A few have passed on, but those who remain still live that spirit only cultivated on the fields of football.

That beautiful, ugly old press box will be torn down and replaced with a modern, beautiful facility. But you can never tear down or replace the wonderful memories of victories, nor the crushing feelings of defeats witnessed from my glorious vista. I will never again view the surrounding area of the tree-covered community as it blended in to central campus, but I will forever hold in my heart a special feeling when I look up at the area, which was home to me on so many Saturday afternoons.

Jerry Hanlon was one of six assistant coaches that Bo Schembechler brought with him to U-M from Miami University. He would remain on the Michigan football coaching staff for 23 years, 18 as the offensive line coach and six as the quarterbacks coach. He retired following the 1991 season, two years into coach Gary Moeller's tenure. A native of North Bend, Ohio, Hanlon was an offensive halfback for coach Ara Parseghian at Miami University (1953-55) and played on two MAC championship teams.

Read more "Memories From the Press Box" in the Michigan football game program, available for purchase at home games and at the media relations office on Mondays following home contests. In this week's Michigan vs. Delaware Penn State program, read memories from former U-M football play-by-play man Frank Beckmann and University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman.

Past Memories from the Press Box: Bruce Madej (11/23/2009) | Jim Wood (11/19/2009) | AMR Staff - Part 2 (11/12/2009) | AMR Staff - Part 1 (11/5/2009) | Jerry Green (10/29/2009) | Jerry Hanlon (10/22/2009) | Geoff Larcom (10/15/2009) | Pat Perry (10/9/2009) | Will Perry (10/1/2009) | Dick Gaskill (9/24/09) | Jim Meyer (9/17/09) | Frank Beckmann (9/10/2009) | John Borton (9/3/2009)

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