Bo joins Woody once again on heaven’s sidelines

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 3, 2006

I could just see Bo Schembechler walking through those pearly gates of heaven and the first person he sees is Woody Hayes.

“Dammit Bo, You’d do anything to win this game,” I can hear Woody screaming at his friend and rival.

“Ah, you’re just mad because you died before me and couldn’t do it instead,” Bo probably retorted.

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With the death of Bo Schembechler Friday on the eve of possibly the greatest of all Ohio State and Michigan games went the final link between the rivalry made famous by Woody and Bo.

The similarities between the two men are not coincidental.

You can talk about each man by using one name, a nickname, and everyone would know who you were talking about: Woody and Bo, not Wayne Woodrow Hayes or Glenn Schembechler.

Woody was the teacher and Bo the student, serving as an assistant under Woody at Ohio State before taking the head coaching job at Miami, Oh.

Bo was part of the coaching staff that once included coaching greats like Lou Holtz, Bill Mallory and George Chaump. Woody always taught team instead of individuals or awards and that everyone had a job to do and no job was insignificant or less important than another.

They all took that philosophy with them.

Woody was always there for his assistants even when they took head coaching jobs at other schools, including Bo.

That is, except for the 10 years Woody and Bo went head-to-head coaching and recruiting at Ohio State and Michigan.

When the two men were no longer coaching against each other, meetings and dialogues resumed.

Okay, they did talk once. When Michigan upset No. 1 Ohio State in 1969, the Wolverines went to the Rose Bowl. But on the night before the game, Bo suffered the first of his two heart attacks.

When Bo returned home from the hospital, Woody was the first person through the door and, in Woody style, told Bo sternly, “Dammit, Bo, you’ve got to start taking care of yourself.”

Woody taught his assistants well. The ones who listened and did what they were taught had success. Bo learned well, maybe too well for Woody. Bo had a 5-4-1 record in his 10 meetings against Woody and was 11-9-1 overall in the rivalry in his 21 seasons at Michigan.

Of course, Bo also had the advantage of learning from Woody as a player when he played for Miami during Woody’s tenure at the college.

Both Woody and Bo were head coaches at Miami, then landed their final jobs at schools where they became legends.

It would be easy to imagine the two men watching Saturday’s rivalry game together and chided the other over different plays.

I’m still wondering if it’s true that when Bo got to heaven there was a nice, small cottage with a Michigan flag flying on the porch and St. Peter said, “There’s your new home.”

Bo looked around and saw a beautiful mansion with an Ohio State flag on the porch. He turned to St. Peter said barked, “How come Woody gets a better house than me?”

St. Peter replied, “Oh, that’s God’s house. He just thinks he’s Woody Hayes.”

God bless Bo and Woody.

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.