Long-time Michigan assistant, head football coach Gary Moeller passed away


LIMA, OhioGary Moeller, the longtime assistant and head coach of the University of Michigan football program, passed away Monday morning (July 11). Moeller, 81, was on the Michigan football program for 23 years. He was one of 11 coaches in school history to have worked with the program for more than 20 years, and one of five of 11 individuals to serve as head coach of the Wolverines (1990-94).

Moeller led the Wolverines to four bowl wins and an overall record of 44-13-3 in his five years as head coach, including a win over Washington in the 1993 Rose Bowl. Moeller led teams to three Big Ten Championships, five bowl appearances (1991 Gator, 1992 and 1993 Rose, 1994 Hall of Fame and 1994 Holiday), and five consecutive finishes in the top 20 in the latest national polls.

Moeller’s Wolverines set a Big Ten record by winning 19 consecutive conference games from 1990 to 1992. By winning the Big Ten title in his first season as head coach, he joined Fielding Yost, Bennie Oosterbaan and Bo Schembechler as the sole coaches in school history to accomplish the feat.

After graduating from Ohio State in 1963, Moeller began his coaching career at Bellefontaine High School in Ohio. He joined Schembechler’s staff in Miami, Ohio, for the 1967 and 1968 seasons, and made the move to Michigan with Bo in 1969. Moeller served as the defensive ends coach until he was promoted to defensive coordinator in 1973. Its defensive units led the nation in scoring defenses in 1974 and 1976.

In 1977, Moeller took over as head coach at the University of Illinois, a position he held for three years before returning to Ann Arbor in 1980 as the Wolverines’ quarterback coach. Moeller resumed his duties as defensive coordinator from 1982-87. As its units did twice in the mid-1970s, the 1985 squad led the nation in scoring defense. Before being named Michigan head coach in 1990, Moeller was the team’s offensive coordinator for three seasons (1987-89).

Moeller is survived by his wife, Ann, three daughters, Susan, Amy and Molly, and son, Andy, a former linebacker and captain for the Wolverines.

The family will visit the Chiles-Laman Funeral Home in Lima, Ohio (1170 Shawnee Road) on Friday, July 15 from 2 to 8 PM. The family funeral will be held privately on Saturday, July 16.

Following are statements from athletic department officials:

The football world lost a great man in Gary Moeller. Coach Moeller looked after his players and his teams and was committed to the University of Michigan. He gave much to the game of football and excelled as both offensive and defensive coordinator and head coach across the ranks of the university and the NFL.

We have lost a wonderful family man. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Ann, as well as their daughters Susan, Amy and Molly, and my former teammate and co-captain Andy.

Rest in peace, Coach Mo, and Go Blue!

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan’s J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach

Gary Moeller was a great family man, a great friend, a great coach, and a man of integrity of great character. I admired him, I respected him and I loved him.

— Lloyd Carr, retired Michigan head football coach

I was fortunate enough to work with Coach Mo in both Miami (Ohio) and Michigan. Gary Moeller was a coach who cared for everyone who worked with him and for all the players who played for him and represented our program. He was a good-hearted man who made decisions and sought input from his staff to ensure the decisions were right for Michigan. Gary Moeller will be missed, but not forgotten. He was a wonderful man from Michigan and a good friend of my family.

— Jon Falk, retired Michigan football equipment manager

So sad to hear of Gary Moeller’s passing.

In my opinion, he was one of the behemoths in modern Michigan football history. As head coach, he won Big Ten Championships, Rose Bowls and numerous major games against Notre Dame, MSU and Ohio State.

As an assistant, he was instrumental in developing “out of the box” game plans and strategies that gave Michigan an edge over their opponents. Sometimes, even when he was short, Moeller found a way to prepare his men as a coordinator for 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, the eventual national champion, managed only three field goals against the defenses of Michigan and Moeller. The best defensive performance in one game I’ve ever seen from a Michigan team.

As an offensive coordinator, he innovated a no-huddle offensive for Michigan, playing a key role in getting Desmond Howard into 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 professional and collegiate level, Mo was a player’s coach. He cared about those players after they finished playing. Mo loved leadership! Although he was the genius of X and O, he always felt that the most important aspect of a player’s character was the development of their leadership traits. He never stopped coaching attitude and character. He liked players who showed leadership qualities and believed they were the heart and soul of every team he coached.

He also suffered bad breaks, and bad timing in his career. But you never heard Gary Moeller complain or apologize. He was a class act. He was a good man.

I feel deeply humbled when people refer to me as a ‘Michigan Man’. In my opinion, Gary Moeller was as fine a “Michigan Man” as you will find. At Michigan Football, we’ve lost a giant. Ohio State graduate Gary Moeller belongs in the front row of Michigan’s football greats. Unfortunately, he suffered more adversity than he deserved, and still got through it with his strength and character intact.

I pray for his wife Ann and his family. He was a fantastic father. He was a great friend. I loved the man. I’m not the only one. I will miss him. Rest in peace Mo.

— Jim Brandstatter, retired Michigan radio and television analyst; former Michigan player

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