The purpose of today’s post is simple – Happy Birthday Schembechler Hall! Glenn Edward “Bo” Schembechler articulated his vision to build a “Center of Champions” in early July 1988. Bo had taken on the duties of athletic director while continuing to serve as the school’s head football coach. He knew that Michigan had a great football tradition and he knew that Michigan’s football stadium was second to none. However, Bo also knew that Michigan’s practice facilities were not keeping up with the nation’s best.
(Note – Schembechler Hall was dedicated on May 29, 1991. It was a dream come true for Bo and his beloved Michigan Wolverine Football Program. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
Yes, Coach/AD Bo Schembechler finally made a first-class “football building” one of his top priorities in 1988. He enlisted former President Gerald R. Ford to become the Honorary Chairman of the fund-raising campaign. In less than three years, Schembechler Hall was a reality. Bo, and President Ford, raised over 13 million dollars from just over 1,600 donors. Finally, on May 29, 1991, Michigan had one building that was totally dedicated to creating and maintaining a championship football culture. A culture of “champions.”
The idea for a “Center of Champions” actually dated back to his first season at Michigan when conditioning drills were held in Yost Field House. There wasn’t a lot of weight training equipment and locker rooms were in short supply for coaches and players alike. In 1969, when one of his coaches complained that they had it better back at Miami of Ohio, Schembechler’s response was memorable. He told the young coach something like “Fielding Yost might have hung his hat on that nail.”
So, instead of focusing on what Michigan didn’t have, Schembechler pointed out that Michigan had a great tradition that no other school had and moved on. Bo definitely knew that Michigan’s practice and conditioning facilities were pretty poor, but he wasn’t going to let his coaches use them as an excuse. However, he also knew that opposing coaches had no problem pointing out such shortcomings to potential recruits. Bo knew that Michigan’s practice facilities had to improve, but he was also working for a guy named Don Canham who didn’t like to spend a lot of money. Although he didn’t lose any sleep over it, Bo advocated for better facilities for his coaches, players and the program in general. When Bo added Athletic Director to his title, he finally articulated his vision and plan to build a first-class football facility. It would simply be called “The Center of Champions.”
Bo Schembechler had no intention of building a structure that would bear his name. He just wanted to build something special that would improve on the practice facilities, weight training areas, and offices that he inherited when he arrived at Michigan in 1969. However, the Board of Regents decided that the building could have no other name. So, that’s how Schembechler Hall came to be back in 1991. The building was upgraded in 2014 and Bo’s amazing statue was added to the entrance to the property. Recently, Michigan’s Board of Regents approved additional upgrades to “Bo’s House” to keep it up-to-date and cutting edge.
Like Fielding H. Yost before him, Bo was intent on building something for the future that he might not personally enjoy. Fielding Yost retired from coaching so that he could focus on building his magnificent Michigan Stadium. Ironically, Yost never coached a single game in the stadium that he envisioned, and built, for the Michigan Football Ages. Bo also built something for “the next guy” named Gary Moeller and those who followed. Interestingly enough, Bo never occupied the Head Coaches’ Office in the building that bears his name. (Note-Bo did have an office in Schembechler Hall as Coach Emeritus until his death in 2006.)
Yes, Schembechler Hall was “state of the art” when it was dedicated in 1991. Of course, it has had numerous face lifts to keep up with the times. It continues to be one of the finest facilities of its kind in all of college football. So, Happy Anniversary to Schembechler Hall – still looking good after 28 years! Go Blue!
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