The Wolverine

2020 Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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160 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2020 FOOTBALL PREVIEW "What would Bo think?" T h a t 's w h a t w e n t through the mind on a recent rainy night around 3 a.m., shortly after we'd made our predictions for the 2020 College Football Playoff (CFP) field: Clem- son, Alabama, Ohio State and (insert sacrificial lamb here). Wash, rinse, repeat. " B o " t o a M i c h i g a n sportswriter, of course, is Bo Schembechler, U-M's patri- arch for so many years who spawned 30-plus years of the Wolverines' Big Ten domi- nance, including 21 during his own coaching career. Most of his teachings lived on through his protégés, in- cluding Lloyd Carr. At one of his weekly press conferences in the early 2000s, after pro- posals started to pop up in- troducing talk of a playoff system for college football, Carr made it clear he was ve- hemently opposed. "I hope I'm not around to see it," he said, the disdain evident in his voice. A pause ensued, at which point he realized its eventual inevitability. "Well … I take that back," he said with a grin while reporters erupted in laughter. But the state of college football is no laughing matter. It's become, frankly, bor- ing. As many predicted, the CFP has essen- tially made the season a battle for fifth for most programs, while bowl games are now meaningless postseason exhibitions. So what would Bo think of all this? If anyone would have an idea it would be his son Shemy (whose own son, by the way — Glenn Edward IV and also nicknamed Bo — is a spitting image of the grandfather he never met). We reached out, and we didn't even have to wait five minutes for an answer. Shemy, it turned out, had broached the sub- ject a few years earlier in a dissertation for his master's degree. "Let me email it to you," he offered. You could hear his father's voice in the essay as if the words were his own, citing coaches' ridiculous salaries as one of the driving forces behind the money machine college football had become. "… The level of corruption in recruiting primarily occurs in football and basketball considering the revenue those sports create and the pressure to win is the most," Shemy wrote. "The coaches within these sports, especially the ones that I have been around, have allowed their integrity to be compro- mised in this high-stakes market, and many are more than willing to cut corners in the interest of self-preservation. "… The onus of honesty and transparency must be focused on this group above all else as they are on the front lines in the recruiting process. There was a day that coaches be- haved with significantly higher levels of in- tegrity, especially when handling the boost- ers that posed problems even back then." One of the key strategies his father used to take full control of the recruiting pro- cess, he continued, was to threaten to turn his own school in if there was any sense of impropriety. That's how committed he was to ensuring Michigan wouldn't become the win-at-any-cost football factories he was competing with on a national level. It probably cost him a national champion- ship, but he wouldn't sacrifice his principles. " T h e o n e t h i n g t h a t gave him this control was not only his own integrity, but also that he proved he could win without hav- ing to resort to this type of activity," Shemy noted. "When Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler roamed the sidelines of the Big Ten Conference, they also served as watchdogs over the rest of the coaches in the league. "They would never hesi- tate to impose their values on another coach if that coach undercut the integrity they held dear, especially in the recruiting arena." The difficult dynamic that must be overcome to- day, he added, is that it's hard to find coaches like those two in positions of leadership — "no offense to the likes of Nick Saban or Urban Meyer, etc.," he added. None taken, we're sure. They know the game as well as anyone, and they're more than willing to play it. As Andy Staples of The Athletic wrote after U-M's loss to OSU last year, "Harbaugh either doesn't know what a team that can compete with Ohio State looks like or — more likely — knows and has elected not to try to wade into the same recruiting waters. "Ohio State doesn't compete with Michi- gan for players. It competes with Clemson, Alabama and Georgia for players. Only by signing multiple players that those schools want can a program join that club. But that's difficult to do, and it requires a choice Har- baugh has thus far seemed unwilling to make." That hardly means he doesn't want to beat the Buckeyes and win big at U-M. He meant it when he said this spring, "We have to beat Ohio State." But there's still plenty of Bo in him, and in this landscape, that's going to make it even tougher. Regardless, those who grew up with a Schembechler-led program should not only understand … they shouldn't want it any other way. ❏ INSIDE MICHIGAN CHRIS BALAS Chris Balas has been with The Wolverine since 1997. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Balas_Wolverine. Bo Schembechler was very committed to ensuring Michigan wouldn't become the win-at-any-cost football factories he was competing with on a national level. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN A Changed Landscape

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