By Michael Reghi
…And Bo and Woody! Ohio State-Michigan, Michigan-Ohio State! I still consider it to be the most meaningful rivalry in all of college sports, if not sports overall. Yet, I am completely biased, and say so proudly! The ten year battle between the two Ohio born and bred coaching icons, characterizing the fiery nature of the two, was college football theater at its very finest!
And, the games themselves usually followed suit! Always with a Big Ten championship, and the trip to the Rose Bowl on the line, the competition level was the very best college football offered from 1969-1978…anywhere in the country! Yes, as I’ve grown to appreciate the strong college football rivalries of our time, I’ll give you the likes of Oklahoma-Nebraska, USC-Notre Dame, Miami-Florida State, as some of the many that have strong meaning….none of them captivated not only the two states, but the nation, like Michigan-Ohio State, Ohio State-Michigan!
The Woody-Bo era gave us Rex Kern, Jim Otis, John Brockington and Jack Tatum..vs. Thom Darden, Reggie McKenzie, Dan Dierdorf, and Jim Mandich early….through Archie Griffin, Cornelius Greene, and John Hicks vs. Dennis Franklin, Dave Brown, and Rob Lytle, Ohioans all, who followed Bo to Ann Arbor. And in the last year of the rivalry, Woody recruited Art Schlichter to battle Michigan’s then veteran qb Rick Leach. The numbers showed Bo and Michigan holding the 5-4-1 advantage, the tie being the infamous 10-10 stalemate in Ann Arbor in 1973. Ohio State up 10-0 at the half behind Archie Griffin, and their superb defense. Michigan winning the second half 10-0 behind Dennis Franlin’s quarterbacking excellence. Yes, this was way before college football’s overtime, and the Big Ten athletic directors voted Ohio State to go to the Rose bowl which enraged Schembechler.
The games were classics! The first of the ten, in 1969, Ohio State and Hayes undefeated, with a team that might have won an NFL Championship! Schembechler’s first season in Ann Arbor, the Barberton native, who played offensive tackle for Woody Hayes at Miami, Ohio, and later was his offensive line coach at Ohio State for five seasons, beat his mentor 24-12, with his secondary intercepting 5 passes in the stunning win! Hayes, who was denied an undefeated season, and probable national championship told Schembechler…’ Damn you Bo! You’ll win a lot of football games at Michigan’…’none will ever be bigger then this one’! Schembechler often said his mentor was right!
Mentioned the 10-10 tie in 1973, then back to back Ohio State wins, in Columbus in 1974, 12-10 Buckeyes, without the aid of a touchdown, as Tom Skladany kicked 4 field goals, and Michigan’s Mike Lantry, a Vietnam war hero, missed a field goal attempt with 20 seconds to play to send Ohio State to the Rose Bowl. Then in Ann Arbor in 1975, it was a Griffin alright…no, not Archie, but brother Ray, who intercepted Michigan freshman qb Rick Leach in the 4th quarter to help snap a 14-14 tie, as Ohio State rallied to win. The final three years of the rivalry were all won by Bo and Michigan, as Leach directed two of the wins in Columbus, the final one against the true freshman qb Schlicter.
Earle Bruce came in to challenge Schembechler for the next nine years, winning five of the nine, before John Cooper rolled into Columbus, losing his two match ups with Schembechler, beginning the 13 year run as the head coach that most Buckeye fans would just as soon forget. The 13 battles with Michigan generated just two Ohio State wins. Which, of course, has completely flipped the other way, with the Jim Tressel led Buckeyes, who have won won six in a row over Michigan, and 8 of the nine with the former Baldwin-Wallace qb on the sidelines.
Think about it! The last 22 years of this storied rivalry have been unbelievably lopsided! Michigan losing just twice in 13 seasons, now Ohio State losing just once in the last nine games! As a kid, junior high school age through completing college during the course of the ‘Ten Year War’, I would never have believed this to be possible!
Which leads me to a word of caution to avid supporters of both programs, SLOW DOWN!!! CAREFUL!
I vividly remember telling many rabid Michigan backers during the Wolves annual crushing of John Cooper and the Buckeyes, don’t get too carried away, this will change. You see, the Michigan faithful didn’t consider it a rivalry anymore. Say what! Enter Jim Tressel, and now the Wolverines faithful are tasting that bad medicine they once were pouring into Ohio State mouths!
Buckeye fans…same principal applies. I know your saying Michigan isn’t relevant, and truly believe you’ll always beat the Wolverines, as you have 8 of the last 9. It too, will change. Just as Ohio State finally pulled the plug on Cooper, and brought in Tressel, with his strong Ohio roots to value the rivalry, Michigan will do the same, and probably very soon.
Motto for both sides. Sure, enjoy it, because it feels so good to continually own your hated rival. Just be aware that when it flips, the view from the other side, doesn’t taste good! You’ve both lived it, and know exactly what I’m talking about!
You need to only reference Woody and Bo…Bo and Woody. They respected each other enormously! Around Schembechler, you dare not say anything negative about Hayes…you’d get a verbal like you’ve never before from Bo! He revered Woody. Loved to beat him in the head-to-heads, that’s the competitor Hayes taught him to be, yet loved him as a man, and coach.
And Hayes? Everyone knew that Bo Schembechler was Hayes absolute favorite. Loved him as his assistant coach, former player at Miami, and was very instrumental in getting Bo the head coaching job at Miami, where Schembechler won 3 MAC titles in 5 years, before the rivalry and legacy started at Michigan.
I salute these two men each and every season as the rivalry comes upon us. Was fortunate to be around both the programs as a kid playing football, went to Bo’s summer football camps three years running, and learned to respect the Michigan-Ohio State ‘way’ of playing the game…and the value of being accountable to ‘THE TEAM’. To both Hayes and Schembechler, that’s the only way to approach the game, with ‘THE TEAM’ always ahead of the individual.
It may be old school, yet I have always put both Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler on my coaching pedestal. In fact, they stand joined at the hip at the very top. Never to be taken down. For me, football lessons learned as a kid, through teenager, and young adulthood, forever remain true.
Thank you Woody and Bo…Bo and Woody!
The rivalry hasn’t swung yet, and won’t tomorrow. Rich Rodriguez is certainly not Bo Schembechler!
Ohio State bruises Michigan 41-21, and gets set for another BCS Bowl…too many big play opportunities for Ohio State offensively against the porous Michigan defense. I’m excited to see how the Ohio State defense, always rock solid, has prepared for, and deals with the talented Denard Robinson. You guys know I look for the game within the game!!!! That aspect should be intriguing!
Enjoy everyone! Hope all had a blessed Thanksgiving!