Harbaugh: ‘To be tested by Bo was the making of my soul’

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jim Harbaugh and Bo Schembechler in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2, 1987.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh thinks every day about Bo Schembechler, his coach, his mentor.

Harbaugh, who played quarterback for the Schembechler-coached Wolverines, is now running the team and wears the skinny Block M hat that Bo always wore. He knows Schembechler is very much a part of who he is, how he works, how he thinks, and how he coaches.

After reading The Detroit News' collection of vignettes, including one from his father, Jack Harbaugh, who was an assistant under Schembechler, Harbaugh reflected on Schembechler on Thursday morning on the 10th anniversary of his passing. Here are his words:

“I think about Bo most days, almost all the time. Jon Falk is right outside of my office, and he and I are the ones who talk about him the most. And my dad and I. It’s almost every day there’s a story. Most of the time I’m doing something, trying to decide something, I’ll bounce it off Jon or my dad, anybody who knows Bo. And they’ll invariably say, ‘Bo had a similar thing, and Bo did this.’ It’s awesome. I wish he was here. I wish I could be going through this with him. How cool would that be?

Remembering Bo: The charismatic coach

“That’s the thing I think about -- I wonder what he would think of it (the job he’s doing at Michigan). I’d want to know. I’d like to think he would think I was doing a good job. The thing we all look back on, and I speak for myself, but I’m so thankful, so obliged when I think that to be tested by Bo was the making of my soul. Obliged and thankful for the hard service he laid down. It was what he expected and it’s what I expected he would do. I expected him to be that way, and he was. The counsel you always got from him, he never led you astray. You knew it would be hard to take the path he told you to take, but you knew you would come out on the right side. It was going to be good for your soul. You knew it was going to be hard but there were sacrifices that had to be made, but you were going to come out of it on the right side. And it was going to be good for you. He had a tremendous moral compass.

“It wasn’t going to be the easy way. That’s what you’re thankful for. That’s the way he drove the ship – the right way, the best way. Somebody on a ship in the crow’s nest and you were happy he was. You knew the direction was going in the right direction.

“Like every other person that’s known him, I’ve been a follower of him. I aspired to be like him, there’s no question about that. He’s tested me. I feel like everyone else would feel. He’s changed me, he’s forged me and I’m proud of that. I know I can look back and think at times, ‘What would Bo do in this situation?’ Throughout the years and still do today. Would he approve of the way we’re doing this?

“It doesn’t seem like 10 years because you have so many reminders of him in the way you act yourself and the way we all act. He was a great coach, a great teacher. I’ve learned so much. You learn so much around him. He’s the greatest coach you’ve ever known and one of the greatest men you’d ever hope to be around. He was great on a different level. You aspire to be good like he was. He’s as good as they go, as there ever was, ever will be.”