Friday, November 17, 2006

Plenty of drama precedes marquee matchup.

Even if you’re not a fan of college football you have no doubt heard about this weekend’s premier match-up. The #1 Ohio State Buckeyes will host the #2 Michigan Wolverines on Saturday afternoon. This promises to be an epic moment in what is college football’s equivalent to the Hatfields and the McCoys. Yes, these two Big Ten stalwarts have been bitter rivals since the early 1900s. It may sound like a cliché to say that won-loss records have never mattered in this long-standing feud, but it’s a fact. However, it’s quite the serendipity that these are the top two teams in the land.

As if there was any doubt where this game ranks in Wolverine-Buckeye lore, Michigan players received a visit this past week from a very prominent figure in this storied rivalry. Bo Schembechler, Michigan’s coach from 1969-89, paid a visit to the team. The intense Schembechler, characterized as a “tyrant” by Minneapolis Star Tribune sports columnist Patrick Reusse, no doubt emphatically conveyed to the players how much Saturday’s game means to him. There was even a rumor that the 77-year old former coach skipped a doctor’s appointment to speak with the team.

Shockingly, as we learned just today, the iconic former coach will not even see the big tilt.

It won't be the same without him.

Not Saturday. Not ever.

Michigan and Ohio State will play a huge football game Saturday afternoon, but something profound will be missing. Glenn E. "Bo" Schembechler will be missing.

One of the very few events that could mitigate the towering anticipation for this matchup between the Wolverines and Buckeyes has stunningly transpired, on the eve of the game. Bo Schembechler has died. Just when it appeared he might stubbornly live forever.

It's a flabbergasting, karmic coincidence -- the Hall of Fame coach dying the day before the biggest of all 103 games in a rivalry he helped enliven. Emotions will be in powerful conflict in Ohio Stadium on Saturday. The game will still be played at a passionate level that Bo would both demand and applaud, but there will be shadows across many hearts in two states.

It's a terribly sad loss for the winningest football school of all time.

In a bizarre side note to all of this, a punk rock group made up of Buckeye faithful has been scheduled for some time now to hold a big concert tonight on the Ohio St campus.

The name of the group? The Dead Schembechlers.


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