My fondness for college football more than likely grew out of the success of the Michigan Wolverines when I was a kid. That was due largely to the coaching of Bo Schembechler. It didn't seem right if the Wolverines weren't in the hunt for the Big Ten Conference title and the Rose Bowl each fall.
I loved the rivalry between Bo and Woody Hayes, the longtime coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes. It did my heart good when the Wolverines could spoil the Buckeyes season. Unfortunately the Buckeyes did that to the Wolverines this past Saturday, but what a game and what drama.
I'm not sure Schembechler was a man I could say I idolized, but I did respect what he did on the field and how he represented the game. Sure he stormed up and down the field yelling at referees and players, but that's a desire to win. If you grew up in Michigan you might root for some of the smaller college teams, but when it came to picking someone to cheer for at the Division One level it was either Michigan or Michigan State. Although I did pull for the Spartans on occasion, it was always Michigan I hoped would win the game between them.
Once Schembechler retired from coaching I had to find another coach to throw my support behind. It took a few years, but there was this former assistant coach from Notre Dame who had gotten a new gig coaching for the Wisconsin Badgers. Barry Alvarez did a fantastic job for the Badgers. Like Bo he took the Badgers to conference wins and Rose Bowl victories. Like Bo there were no National Championships. Like Bo his success can be measured by wins on the field, the respect he earned from his staff, players and fans. That makes them both winners in my book.
It may take me a few more years to find another coach to admire in the big game, but every year I look forward to the start of college football. Meanwhile I think there's this other coach at Wisconsin who did a great job in his freshman season. Hmmm?