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January 26, 2018 Happy Birthday Gary O. Moeller

Posted on January 26, 2018 by Barry Gallagher

Today is a great day to wish happy birthday to a former Wolverine coach named Gary O. Moeller. Coach Mo had the unenviable job of trying to fill the shoes of Bo Schembechler in 1990. We will talk more about that after we take care of today’s trivia.

Part I. Trivia Question of the Day – January 25, 2018:

Who scored the first touchdown of the Bo Schembechler Era in September 1969?

Part I. Trivia Question Answer for January 25, 2018:   Garvie Craw

Bo Schembechler was looking for a lot of things in the spring of 1969. He was looking for the toughest men he could find and he was looking for a fullback. As it turned out, Senior Garvie Craw was exactly the kind of player that Bo Schembechler wanted in a fullback. He was tough, determined and committed to the run game. Garvie excelled in Schembechler’s system. He threw a ton of blocks to spring the tailbacks and got the tough yards when needed. I am sure that Bo loved having Garvie on his first Michigan team!

It is only fitting that the first touchdown of the Bo Schembechler Era was scored by a fullback. Yes, Garvie scored the first touchdown in the first quarter of the first game in the Bo Era. It was a short dive off right-tackle on September 20, 1969 against Vanderbilt.

Garvie Craw Michigan Football 1969 | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Garvie Craw (#48) tumbles to the turf after crashing over the goal line for the first touchdown in the Bo Schembechler Era in 1969. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

To make things even better, Craw scored the first (and second) Michigan touchdown(s) against Ohio State in 1969 to help secure the 24-12 victory!

So, Garvie Craw finished his Michigan career with twenty-two starts, three varsity letters, a Big Ten Co-Championship and a ton of great memories. Craw, and his teammates on the 1969 team, raised the bar for all Michigan Men who followed. Sadly, Garvie Craw died on July 27, 2007.

Today is a wonderful day to celebrate the memory of Garvie Craw and appreciate his contributions to the great legacy that is Michigan Football. May Garvie Craw always rest in peace. Go Blue!


Part II. Trivia Question of the Day – January 26, 2018:

Who was the Most Valuable Player of the 1951 Rose Bowl game?

Part III. Wolverine of the Day: Gary O. Moeller    

Today is a great day to wish happy birthday to former Michigan Head Coach Gary O. Moeller. Coach Moeller was born a Buckeye in Lima, Ohio. After playing for Woody Hayes at Ohio State, Gary coached some high school football before becoming an assistant coach (1967) with Bo Schembechler at Miami of Ohio.

Mo came to Ann Arbor, with Bo, from Miami of Ohio in 1969 to help Bo turn things around at Michigan. It worked! Bo and Mo were like brothers and both men worked hard to put Michigan on an even keel with Woody and his Buckeyes.

Gary O. 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.

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 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, but 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!

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.

Gary O. Moeller Michigan Football 1990 | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Coach Mo and Bo celebrate his appointment as Michigan’s Head Football Coach in January 1990. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

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!

Of course, 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 one 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. Coach Mo’s Wolverines won 30, lost 8 and tied 2 for a winning rate of about seventy-eight (.775) percent. Mo’s teams also added three more Big Ten Championship Trophies to Michigan’s collection before he left Ann Arbor.

The bottom line on Gary O. 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.

Here are a few things about Coach Mo that you may not already know!

  • Moeller is the first, and only, Michigan (and Big Ten) coach to win nineteen straight conference games (1990-1993).
  • Mo is the first, and only, Michigan Head Coach to have a Heisman winner (Desmond Howard) and a Butkus Award winner (Erick Anderson) in the same season (1991).
  • Gary O. Moeller is the first, and only, Michigan football coach to have twelve players selected for All-Big Ten honors in a single season. Actually, it happened twice! (1991 and 1992)
  • Gary Moeller is first in overall bowl winning percentage for coaches who have coached in more than two bowl games at eighty percent. (4-1-0).

So, today is a great day to remember the accomplishments of Gary O. Moeller. Yes, he was a Buckeye who became a Wolverine for life. Moeller contributed greatly to the winning tradition at Michigan. Thanks for the memories Coach Mo.

I hope that Gary O. Moeller has a very Happy Birthday today! Go Blue!


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