Former Michigan and Illinois head coach Gary Moeller died Monday morning at his home in Lima, Ohio, Michigan has announced. He was 81 years old.
Best remembered for his 23 seasons as a Wolverine, Moeller's college football career began as an Ohio State Buckeye.
Moeller played linebacker and center under Woody Hayes before moving into coaching upon his 1964 graduation. His first jobs came at the Ohio high school level before joining the Miami (Ohio) staff of Bo Schembechler. When Schembechler landed the Michigan job in 1969, Moeller joined him. His first game against his alma mater was one of the rivalry's most famous, a 24-12 upset of the No. 1-ranked Buckeyes.
Moeller remained in Ann Arbor through 1976, when he landed the head job at Illinois. He lasted three seasons in Champaign, going 6-24-3. He returned to Michigan in 1980 and displayed a level of coaching talent few could match. He joined the staff as quarterbacks coach, then moved to defensive coordinator in 1982, and then moved to offensive coordinator in 1987.
Here's longtime Wolverines radio voice Jim Brandstatter on Moeller:
As an assistant, he was instrumental in developing "outside the box" game plans and strategies that gave Michigan an edge on their opponents. Sometimes even when outmanned, Moeller would find a way as a coordinator to have his guys ready to play the game of their lives.
As a defensive coordinator, he developed a defense in the Sugar Bowl against Auburn that kept Bo Jackson, Lionel James and Tommy Agee, three future NFL running backs, out of the end zone. Auburn, eventual national champs, managed just three field goals against Michigan and Moeller's defense. The best single-game defensive performance I ever witnessed from a Michigan team.
As an offensive coordinator, he innovated a no-huddle offense for Michigan, and was instrumental in getting Desmond Howard in positions to have an incredible year and win the Heisman Trophy. He was an incredible football coach.
More importantly, he was overwhelmingly loved and respected by his players. At both the professional, and collegiate level, Mo was a player's coach. He cared about those players after they got done playing. Mo loved leadership! While he was an X's and O's genius, he always felt the most important aspect of a player's character was developing their leadership traits. He never stopped coaching attitude and character. He loved players who exhibited leadership skills, and believed they were the heart and soul of any team he coached.
He also suffered bad breaks, and poor timing in his career. But, you never heard Gary Moeller complain or make excuses. He was a class act. He was a good man.
Moeller replaced Schembechler in 1990 and won the Big Ten in his first three seasons. His 1992 team won the Rose Bowl and all three finished among the top 10 in the AP poll. In five seasons, Moeller went 44-13-3, 8-5-2 against Ohio State, Michigan State and Notre Dame, and 3-1-1 against Ohio State.
"Gary Moeller was a great family man, great friend, great coach and a man of integrity and high character. I admired him, I respected him and I loved him," Lloyd Carr said.
After resigning at Michigan, Moeller coached in the NFL from 1995 through his 2003 retirement, including a 4-3 stint as the Detroit Lions' interim head coach in 2000.
Moeller is survived by his wife, Ann, and the couple's four children.
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