Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Michigan Tuesday: RIP Coach Moeller

Michigan Football lost an important figure on Monday with the passing of former head coach Gary Moeller at 81.  Coach Moeller was a long time assistant coach and DC for Bo and was even the head coach of Illinois between 1977-1979.   What we know of Coach Mo was that he took over for the legendary Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler in 1990 and had the job for 5 years.  

There is an old saying, "you don't want to be the guy that replaces the legend, you want to be the guy that replaces the guy".   Unfortunately, that could be how Coach Moeller was remembered.   His team gave up the Colorado Hail Mary in the Big House and also had that incident in a Southfield restaurant.  After his short 5 year run he was replaced by Lloyd Carr who went on to win a National Championship.   Back in those days, your next head coach was always on staff.  

Coach Moeller after Michigan moved on the NFL and was an assistant for the Lions.   When Bobby Ross quit during the season, Coach Mo was elevated to the head coaching role and the Lions missed the playoffs when the Bears kicked a last second field goal on the last play of the season.  Many thought Coach Mo had earned the head coaching role keeping the team together but Matt Millen came in and hired Marty Mornhinweg.  If you're ever wondering why the Detroit Lions hasn't done anything in recent memory, look at that ridiculous sequence of hiring (Ross - Millen - Mornhinweg). Coach Moeller went on to be the DC for Jacksonville Jaguars.  

Coach Mo did have success as Michigan's head coach.  He won the co-Big Ten Championship in 1990 and won the Gator Bowl.  In 1991, he lead the Wolverines to another Big Ten Championship and was undefeated in the league but lost to Washington (with me in attendance) in the Rose Bowl.   That was also the year that Desmond Howard won the Heisman Trophy.   In 92, Michigan went undefeated  (another Big 10 championship) and won the Rose Bowl over Washington.   That was a strange year, as the Wolverines went 9-0 but had 3 ties.   In 93, Michigan went 8-4 but did win the Hall of Fame Bowl.  1994 was another 8-4 season with the Colorado Hail Mary, but the Wolverines won the Holiday Bowl over Colorado State.  That ended up being Coach Mo's final season.  

In 5 years, Coach Mo won 3 Big Ten Championships and 4 bowl games.   That is a pretty good run!

When I started this Blog, I thought I would go at full speed and was even sitting in the Press Box for a few games a year.  (quick story short, I hated it, because I'm a fan, not a journalist.  I wanted to cheer but you can't do that in a working press box.  So that experience wasn't for me).  My last trip to the press box, I passed Coach Moeller who couldn't be nicer and seemed very happy.   That was a number of years ago, but it seemed to me Coach was right in the place that made him the happiest.   

Rest in Peace coach and I hope you and Bo enjoy watching over the Big House on chilly Fall Saturdays.  


RIP Coach Mo said...

In todays world, Coach Moeller would never have been fired for the restaurant mishap. His team and players would likely have still won the NC in 1997, and Lloyd would never have taken us into the nose dive of not being able to beat tO$U (and App St). Both are Michigan Men forever, but Mo > Lloyd.

szanreno said...

I always liked Moeller as a coach. He was a bit of a gambler and it paid off more times than not... RIP...

Brady2017 said...

Mo was awesome, R.I.P. My guess is we might have won MULTIPLE National Championships w Mo, he was that good. A shame what happened to him at the restaurant. Does anyone know did he actually punch a cop? Or was he just belligerent?

Voice of Reason said...

If I am Remembering correctly, Moeller was chosen over Carr when Bo retired. It was because Moeller was a better coach. I also think that Michigan should have not fired Moeller for the "incident" but should have chosen some other form of punitive action. Michigan should have been a lot further along if they kept Moeller. IMHO!!!

Unknown said...

Moeller was a great man.
He was also one of the unluckiest coaches ever to coach.
Some of his losses were last minute freakishly unlucky (Colorado 1994, MSU 1990) - both cases Moeller could have been #1 in the country after those victories and instead those games were so devastating to the team that calamity resulted.
He was a great coach and a great man.
That "incident" was handled so poorly by the police - another unlucky series of events. Moeller was like a Shakespearian tragedy character.
I loved him his entire career. Michigan was fortunate to have him.