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January 26, 2019 Happy Birthday Coach Gary Moeller

Posted on January 25, 2019 by Barry Gallagher

Today is a great day to wish happy birthday to former Michigan Head Coach Gary Moeller. Gary Oscar Moeller is a Buckeye who was born in Lima, Ohio. Mo played linebacker for Woody Hayes at Ohio State where he captained the team as a senior in 1963. Moeller coached some high school football before becoming an assistant coach (1967) with Bo Schembechler at Miami of Ohio.

(Note: Bo named Mo the next Michigan Head Football Coach in December 1989. It was a big day in the lives of two great buckeye friends. It’s really hard to tell who was happier! Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)

Part I. Wolverine of the Day: Gary Moeller

Mo Was part of Bo’s Buckeye “Invasion” in Early 1969

Gary Moeller relocated to Ann Arbor after Bo was hired away from Miami of Ohio in December 1968. Bo and Mo were like brothers and both men worked hard to put Michigan on an even keel with Woody and his Buckeyes. Gary Moeller was with Bo for the first eight seasons of the Schembechler Era at Michigan. During that time, Moeller coached defensive ends and then coordinated Michigan’s defense from 1973 to 1976. The Wolverines posted an overall record of 76-11-3 from 1969 to 1976. Michigan went 55-6-1 in the Big Ten during that time and won, or shared, six conference championships.

Mo Leaves to Lead the Fighting Illini in 1977

In 1977, Moeller left Michigan, with Bo’s blessing, to become the head coach at Illinois. The Fighting Illini football program had fallen on hard-times. Moeller was given a five-year contract to turn things around. However, the impatient Illinois administrators pulled the plug on Moeller after three years. Of course, a losing record of 6-24-3 was the real reason for his firing. However, Schembechler said that Illinois didn’t give Moeller enough time. Bo was furious and he always remembered the unfair treatment of his coaching friend whenever Michigan played Illinois. In an unprecedented move, Bo hired Mo for a second run at Michigan which is something that Schembechler just didn’t do. Once an assistant left, it usually meant that he was gone for good!

Mo Returns to Ann Arbor in 1980

Gary Moeller’s second stint as an assistant at Michigan lasted from 1980 to 1989. Once again, the numbers were impressive! With Bo out front, and Mo working hard in the background, Michigan posted a record of 90 wins, 29 losses and 2 ties. In Big Ten play, the Wolverines won 68 games, lost 14 and tied 2. Michigan added five more Big Ten championships during this time.

When Bo decided that he was going to retire in 1989 there was no need to conduct a nationwide coaching search. Remember, Coach Schembechler was also serving as the Michigan’s Athletic Director.  So he probably just walked down the hall to tell Mo about the “succession” plan. Although it wasn’t formally announced until January 2, 1990, Mo was Bo’s man and that was that!

Gary Moeller Michigan Football 1994 | gobluefootballhistory.com

Head Coach Gary Moeller led Michigan from 1990 to 1994. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.

Mo Takes Charge in 1990!

Gary Moeller’s first team looked a lot like Bo’s last team, which is not surprising since Bo helped recruit most of the players on the roster. Just like his mentor, Mo won a share of the conference title in his first year. Gary Moeller kept things going great for two more years and two more conference titles. Things on the field slipped in 1993 and 1994 when Moeller posted back-to-back seasons of 8-4-0. Some of the natives in Ann Arbor were getting restless, but Moeller appeared to be safe. All that changed in late April 1995 when Coach Mo made a BIG mistake at a restaurant in Southfield, Michigan. A few days later he resigned from one of the best coaching jobs in America.

Gary Moeller finished with a record of 44 wins, 13 losses and 3 ties at Michigan. His final winning percentage was almost seventy-six percent (.758). He was even better in the Big Ten. Mo’s Wolverines won 30, lost 8 and tied 2 for a winning rate of seventy-seven (.775) percent. Moeller’s teams also added three more Big Ten Championship Trophies to Michigan’s collection.

Gary Oscar Moeller – Born a Buckeye, but a Michigan Man for Life!

The bottom line on Gary Moeller is simple. He was a winner! During his twenty-three years on the Michigan sidelines (18 as an assistant and 5 as a head coach) the Wolverines posted an overall record of 210-53-8. That’s a winning rate of almost seventy-nine percent (.789). Michigan’s Big Ten numbers during the “Mo years” were ridiculous! Michigan won 153 games, lost 28 and tied 5. This worked out to a percentage of almost eight-four percent (.836). Oh yes, Michigan also won, or tied, for fourteen conference championships when Gary Moeller was coaching on the Wolverine sidelines.

Gary Moeller is first in overall bowl winning percentage for Michigan football coaches who have coached in more than two bowl games. He won four of five games and finished with an 80 percent bowl winning rate!  Actually, he won 5 of 6 games when you include the game he won against Alabama in 1988 when he filled in for Bo.  So, his bowl “winning rate” is actually just over eighty-three percent (.833). Nobody else is even close!

Yes, today is a great day to remember the accomplishments of Gary O. Moeller. He was a Buckeye who became a Wolverine for life. Moeller contributed greatly to the winning tradition at Michigan. Thanks for the memories coach. I hope you have a very Happy Birthday today! Go Blue!


 Part II. National Day Calendar Note

Guess what day it is today? Yes, it’s Saturday, January 26th. ! It is also another day on the calendar with many “events” to celebrate. Today’s National Day Calendar features four unique things that are being enjoyed across the country. Here they are:

  • Green Juice Day
  • Peanut Brittle Day
  • Seed Swap Day
  • Spouses Day

Personally, I may have some green juice today, but maybe not. We have some peanut brittle left over from the holidays. So, that will be an easy one. We don’t have our seeds yet. I doubt that we will be swapping something that we don’t have.

Spouses Day is definitely a day to celebrate for me and my wife. I don’t think I saw any cards at the Hallmark Store this week. Yes, maybe this “day” is under the radar. Apparently, Spouses Day is a “no gift” day unless you consider that time is the best gift of all when it comes to someone you love. Yes, today is a great day to spend time with your spouse and just enjoy being together. So, Happy Spouses Day to everyone out there who shares his/her life with someone “special.”

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