Sometimes when I was a student at the University of Michigan, I’d walk around Ann Arbor trying to figure out where the building named after Bo Schembechler would be built.
Except for my father and my grandfather, there isn’t another man who had a greater influence on my young life than Bo.
When I was growing up, Michigan football was everything. Every Saturday during football season was either euphoric or devastating, depending on how the Wolverines fared.
Michigan’s football team was my motivation to buckle down in school. I wanted to attend Michigan, not for the supreme educational opportunity, but to be a student where Bo Schembechler was the coach.
By the time I arrived at Michigan as a freshmen, my knowledge of Michigan football was — in my mind — unparalleled. Especially in what would become known as the “Bo Era” of U of M football.
As a kid, I absorbed everything about Michigan’s program. If Bo was my surrogate father, his assistants were my surrogate uncles and the players were all my older brothers. Trust me, I was that obsessed.
Whenever one of Michigan’s assistant coaches left to become a head coach, I would follow their team. From Jim Young to Don Nehlen to Larry Smith to Gary Moeller to Bill McCartney, and all the other assistants who guided college football programs, I was aware of their careers.
It was a world that a child creates when they”re dreaming of acceptance, accomplishment and adulthood. I wanted to become a man who not only my father and grandfather would be proud of, but a man who lived up to the standard of what Bo created at Michigan.
My image of Bo and Michigan were beyond reproach. For years I would attend Michigan football games with my dad, thinking about how great it would be to get close to the Michigan team and maybe actually meet and become buddies with Bo, his coaches and players.
A childhood wish that, in the real world, I never imagined possible.
Then during my junior year, I started to cover the Michigan football team and met Bo for the first time, during Media Day. After the breakfast, I was standing around because I really didn’t know what to do.
Out of the blue, Bo came towards me.
I start shaking, asking myself, “Why is Bo coming over here?”
I was freaking out. The closer he came to me, the more nervous I became.
Finally, he was right in front of me and said, “Excuse me.”
I was standing in front of the restroom door. As he pushed the door open, he looked back at me and said, “How was the food?”
In a voice several octaves higher, I screeched, “It was good.”
Bo gave me a once-over and closed the door.
I just stood — a 19-year-old, self-professed know-it-all reduced to being a little boy again.
Over the last several days, I have thought about that little boy and how he would have done anything to be part of the Michigan football program.
I have also thought a lot about the little boys of the Penn State scandal. About how they must have felt when they found out they were going to be allowed into the world of Penn State football.
Children don’t think about ramifications because they’re children!
We can argue all we want about legacy, statues and the death penalty, but it comes down to morality — what’s right.
Joe Paterno and his minions checked their morality at the entrance to the Penn State football building.
In truth, there isn’t any punishment that’s ever going to change that.