A Salute to Bo Schembechler

Those Who Stay Will Be Champions
-- Bo Schembechler

An excerpt from his May 6, 1990 retirement party held at Cobo Hall in Detroit, Mich.

December 24, 1968
Oxford, Ohio

Christmas arrived early that year for the coach of Miami of Ohio. When the phone rang, he nonchalantly walked over to answer it. The caller came right to the point.

"Bo, this is Don Canham. I'm offering you the job at Michigan."

"Good," Bo said. Nothing else, just "good."

With that one word, Glenn Edward "Bo" Schembechler became the 14th head football coach at the University of Michigan.

Twenty-one years after that historic phone call, Bo Schembechler finds himself on center stage, face-to-face with destiny. He is leaving Michigan as the heir to the most coveted record in Michigan Football history, that all-time victory mark set by the late Fielding H. Yost in 1926, after 25 years of coaching. It was once thought that 165 victories would be difficult C if not impossible C to mach in these modern times. Not so. The former all-state lineman form Barberton High School has attained the mark of distinction as Michigan's winningest head football coach. It was not an easy road.

Following an astounding upset of No. 1-ranked Ohio State in his debut season, Bo suffered a heart attack the day before his Rose Bowl contest with Southern California. Despite this setback, he rebounded vigorously to amass a record of 50-4-1 over the next five years. It took him 12 years to win his first bowl game but when he finally did, the satisfaction that followed made it worth the wait. He was the winningest Division I-A coach in the decade of the 1970s, can boast of 17 bowl appearances in 21 years and holds claim to the most victories of any Division I coach in America today.

Bo Schembechler has earned the right to be called one of college football's all-time great coaches. Yet whenever he is lavished with praise he responds with an "aw shucks" attitude and humbly credits his coaching staff and student-athletes for most of the success he has attained. But anyone will tell you that Bo's consistent winning is the principal reason why 100,000 fans journeyed to Ann Arbor on fall Saturdays to see the Wolverines play.

Considering the intense pressures in college coaching, merely surviving 21 seasons at the same university is an enviable accomplishment; winning with regularity and integrity as Bo has done is something altogether different.

Inspirational speeches, it seems, are intrinsic to the coaching profession. Coach Schembechler coined his own simple phrase that has since become part of Michigan's lore: "Those Who Stay Will Be Champions." In Bo's eyes, it was a symbol of the great Michigan spirit as well as a promise offered by his program. It was meant to challenge and motivate his players to drive onward, regardless of the adversity, to dedicate one's self to the task at hand, to do whatever it takes, to make whatever sacrifices necessary so the team could achieve the final goal of victory.

"Nothing," he said, "is more important. Nothing is more worthwhile."

Perhaps, then, it is poetic justice that his famous phrase "Those Who Stay Will Be Champions," still applies. After 21 wonderful years of working and winning, playing and "staying," of being a winner on and off the field, and making leaders of men, you too are a champion, Bo Schembechler.

And now, more then ever, you are Michigan Football. Fielding Yost would be proud.

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