Saturday, June 30, 2007

30-year Flashback: 1977 coaching staff

In 1977, Head Coach Bo Schembechler was entering his ninth season at the helm. Coach Schembechler amassed an impressive 76-7-3 regular season mark in his first eight seasons (1969-1976) as head coach of the Wolverines. Coach Schembechler was coming off another fantastic year as the Wolverines had won the Big Ten title in 1976 and finished 10-2 (7-1 in conf.) with a #3 ranking in both the AP and the UPI polls. Coach Schembechler's teams had won or tied for Big Ten titles six times in his first eight years and the Wolverines had been to three Rose Bowl games in that span including the previous season. The problem was that the Wolverines were 0-3 in those Rose Bowl contests. However, Coach Schembechler believed that 1977 could be different as he had many returning stars from the 1976 team including junior quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Rick Leach. However, before he could worry about winning a Rose Bowl, Coach Schembechler first had to get his team through a tough conference schedule and to a second consecutive Big Ten title. Repeating would not be easy because although many key players returned to the team in 1977, an important coach did not. Defensive Coordinator Gary Moeller, the mastermind behind Michigan's tough defense, left the Wolverines to take the Head Coach position at the University of Illinois. Coach Schembechler then promoted Defensive Line coach Bill McCartney to be the new Defensive Coordinator for the 1977 season.

Defensive Coordinator Bill McCartney
Coach McCartney was 36-years old and in his fourth year on staff when he became Defensive Coordinator of the Wolverines in 1977. Coach McCartney served as the Defensive End Coach for his first three years at Michigan. He was a Riverview, MI native having graduated from Riverview Community High School (RCHS). [ed. note: If that sounds familiar that is because that is the same hometown and high school that current Wolverines' Head Coach Lloyd Carr hails from.] Prior to joining the Wolverines' staff in 1974, Coach McCartney had been coaching at Dearborn Divine Child High School where his teams won state titles in both football (1971 & 1973) and basketball (1973).

Offensive Line Jerry Hanlon
Coach Hanlon came to Michigan in 1969 with Coach Schembechler. Coach Hanlon was responsible for coaching the offensive line. He had two All-American candidates in Walt Downing and Mark Donahue to instruct on the 1977 squad. Prior to arriving at Michigan, Coach Hanlon worked as one of Coach Schembechler's assistants at the University of Miami (Ohio).

Offensive Interior Line Paul Schudel
Coach Schudel was a former player and graduate assistant at the University of Miami (Ohio) under Coach Schembechler. Coach Schudel played three years as offensive tackle for Coach Schembechler at Miami and was tri-captain his senior year while also earning All-Academic honors. After graduation in 1966, Schudel went on to work two years as a graduate assistant under Bo at Miami, two years as offensive line coach at New Hampshire, two years as offensive line coach at Colorado State, and two years at William & Mary in the dual role of offensive coordinator/offensive line coach. In 1974, Schudel served as offensive line coach at Syracuse for former Michigan assistant Frank Maloney. While coaching at Michigan in 1976, Schudel helped guide Guard Mark Donahue to achieve All-American honors.

Offensive Ends Tirrel Burton
Coach Burton joined the Michigan staff in 1970 as freshman coach and took over the receivers in 1972. He coached Jim Smith to All-American honors in 1976. Coach Burton, like several of the other Michigan coaches, was from the University of Miami (Ohio) as he had both played and coached at Miami. Coach Burton was an outstanding halfback at Miami, twice being named All-MAC. He averaged 8.8 yards per carry and scored 84 points his senior year which were both records. Coach Burton was also a track star winning his way to the NCAA 220 hurdle finals in 1955. Coach Burton was elected to the Miami Sports Hall of Fame for both football and track. Coach Burton graduated from Miami in 1956 and later obtained his Master's Degree while working as an assistant coach at the school. Even though All-American Jim Smith had moved on, Coach Burton expected that some of his young players such as Ralph Clayton could contribute to the Wolverines' success during the 1977 season.

Offensive Backs Don Nehlen
Coach Nehlen joined the Michigan Football coaching staff in 1977 replacing Chuck Stobart who was named Head Coach at the University of Toledo. Coach Nehlen (who would later go on to be the Head Coach for 21 years [1980-2000] at West Virginia University) joined the Wolverines' staff in 1977 after having served the previous nine seasons as the Head Coach at Bowling Green and having compiled a 53-35-4 record. One of Coach Nehlen's main duties for the 1977 season was to work with quarterback Rick Leach (junior).

Defensive Ends Dennis Brown
Coach Brown was in his fifth season on the Wolverine Football coaching staff in 1977 but his association with the program stretched much further back than that. Coach Brown was the Wolverines' starting quarterback in 1967 and 1968. Brown, a graduate of Lincoln Park High School, became the starting quarterback midway through his junior year. In his first game, he established the Big 10 total offense mark. In 1968, he led the Big 10 in total offense and was named All-Big Ten. Brown spent one season as a graduate assistant to Coach Schembechler in 1970 before heading to Dartmouth for a year as the freshman coach. Coach Brown returned to Michigan to work with the backfield and to serve as varsity-reserve coach. Coach Brown became Defensive Ends coach in the spring of '77 when Coach McCartney was named Defensive Coordinator.

Defensive Backs Jack Harbaugh
Coach Harbaugh came to Michigan in 1973 from Iowa as coach of the defensive backs. He and his wife Jackie have three children: John, Jim, and Joan. The middle child, Jim Harbaugh, served as a ball boy for the Wolverines. In 1977, Coach Harbaugh's star pupils included team co-Captain Dwight Hicks and Melvindale native Mike Jolly (So. from Southgate Aquinas H.S.).

Defensive Coach Tom Reed
The 1977 season was Coach Tom Reed's final year with the Wolverines as he accepted the job as Head Coach at the University of Miami (Ohio) following the season. He was replaced on the Michigan staff in 1978 by Milan Vooletich.

Equipment Manager Jon Falk
Jon Falk, another product of the University of Miami (Ohio), joined the Wolverines in 1974 at the behest of Coach Schembechler. Although only 23 years old at the time, Mr. Falk was named by Coach Schembechler to be the head equipment manager for Michigan. (Mr. Falk would go on a Cal Ripken-like consecutive game streak of 384 games that spanned from 1974-2005). In 1977, Mr. Falk was in his fourth year with the Wolverines and he already had everything down to a science. Well, except maybe for the taking of the team photo. Check out Mr. Falk in the 1977 team photo in the back row, second from right. I don't think he was ready.

Football Academic Counselor Jim Betts
Before there was Shari Acho, there was Jim Betts. In 1977, Michigan football legend Jim Betts (who had played for Coach Schembechler during Bo's first two years as the Wolverines' coach) was in charge of the Football players' academics. This was long before anyone ever dreamed of the Stephen M. Ross Academic Center or the Academic Success Program. Football Academic Counselor Betts was no nonsense in his approach in making sure that Coach Schembechler's players attended class and performed up to expectations.

Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Coach Bo Schembechler from collection of Bentley Historical Library, U-M
*Note 2: Photo of Jim Betts from TK Legacy Michigan Signature Series card.

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