When Rob Lytle heard about Glenn Edward "Bo" Schembechler's death yesterday, the first thing that came to his mind was that he hoped the sudden loss would revive the respect between Ohio State and Michigan fans at today's game in Columbus.
Lytle, an All-American running back from Fremont, played under Schembechler at the University of Michigan from 1973-1976. Lytle said Schembechler lived for the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, but the fan advisories for Michigan fans traveling to Columbus showed how times had changed in the matchup.
"I can always remember him saying, he bragged that it was the greatest national rivalry in the country," Lytle said. "It was the hardest-hitting game, most intense, cleanest, but most of all, it had the greatest fans. They understood the game, cheered like heck, lived and died their school colors. But they were always respectful of the team they were playing. If one good thing comes out of this whole deal, it's that the fans remember what it's all about and treat each other with respect."
Former players and fans around the area mourned the death of Schembechler who died in Southfield, Mich., while preparing to tape his television show.
Toledo mayor Carty Finkbeiner, a huge Michigan fan, coached against Schembechler from 1963-1966 when Schembechler was the head coach at Miami (Ohio) and the mayor was the quarterbacks coach at the University of Toledo.
"Bo was a direct and honest guy, whose friends loved him very much," Finkbeiner said yesterday. "He was a common guy who became a legend.
"I've got to believe God looked down and said, 'Bo, I've got a better seat for you, up next to Woody Hayes.'"
Toledo attorney Justice "Judd" Johnson, a Michigan graduate, took recruiting visits with Schembechler before that practice was disbanded by the NCAA..
"Bo was admired by all coaches and families," Johnson said. "With a family, he was very respectful to the parents. He stressed the academics. He told parents, 'If your son comes to Michigan, he'll get a great education and an opportunity to play.'
"He stressed team, first, last, and always. He inspired his players for life, not just college football. He's one of the all-time greats of college football."
Lytle said Schembechler was the reason he attended Michigan. Together they won three Big Ten titles.
"I dearly loved the guy," Lytle said. "He was beyond reproach. He was an honest guy. He was as tough as they come, but he was as fair as they come."
Lytle and Schembechler often exchanged voice mails, and they last spoke at the end of the summer. Schembechler often spoke of Lytle as one of his all-time favorite players to coach.
"He and I had a really special relationship," Lytle said. "When things click they click. When I was in the professional ranks in Denver, we would talk. We constantly kept in touch. There wasn't a day that went by that I wouldn't march into hell for him.
"It's the end of an era, it's a big loss. We all knew he had heart problems, but he's always rebounded. He was always cheerful, seemed like he was feeling pretty good. If he didn't feel good, he would tell you. You take things for granted sometimes."
Contact Maureen Fulton at: email@example.com or 419-724-6160.