Burning Down the Den of Mellow Men

Burning Down the Den of Mellow Men

Submitted by Elno Lewis on July 19th, 2009 at 10:59 AM

When Jimmy Hoffa took over the Teamsters he made a list of those who he would keep, and those who he was going to dump. He told his confidants that it is better to make this decision right away rather than do it piece meal over time. It was Jimmy’s belief that doing it this way would inspire loyalty and confidence from those he kept while leaving him less vulnerable to damage from those who he did not have faith in.

“When you take over a new operation, some people will tell you that you ought to lie low, and look around before you do anything. But that’s not me--because I just don’t think that works.”

The above is of course a quote from Bo, taken from John Bacon’s book, Bo’s Lasting Lessons. If you read chapter 4, you will get an idea of how Bo went about taking over a new operation. He did not pull any punches. He put it all on the line right away and let the chips fall where they may. Bo even risked losing very important players including Thom Darden, Reggie McKenzie, Glenn Doughty, Billy Taylor and Mike Taylor. (Yeah, any of you remember those guys?) Bo wasn’t going to play favorites. He was going to treat them all like dogs.

You have to remember at that time that Bo was basically a nobody. There were numerous influential people who didn’t like or want Bo. He as really sticking his neck out.

Of course, this was a different era. Political correctness hadn’t yet reared its ugly head. Yet, it was still a big chance Bo was taking. Alienating star plays and boosters would not seem to be an exceptionally bright move on his part. It was a risk. In the end, it worked out rather well.

So, that got me to thinking. Rich Rod’s entry and Bo’s entry were under quite similar circumstances. Both came in when the team was down. Both were outsiders. And, from what we hear from former players, both are disciplinarians and believe in hard work. And, both favored a run based offense.

What if Rich Rod had come in the same way as Bo? What if he had worked to eliminate the malcontents and slackers in his first few weeks? What if he had just slammed his darn fist down and said this is how it is going to be--take it or leave it? Could Rich Rod have gotten away with this? And, would it have been better for him over time? Did Rich Rod compromise himself just to get along in Ann Arbor?

I happen to like the hire. I think RR and Michigan are going to be just fine over time. It is a different world now in college football. There is much more competition and a whole lot more money involved. There are more politics than you can shake a stick at. Personally, I would have supported RR had he come in with guns blazing. Perhaps I am in the minority. Maybe I am totally wrong. But, as Shakespeare said, a coward dies a thousand deaths, a brave man only one.

Bo was very hard on that 1969 team. Very hard indeed. I am pretty sure he had many people wondering if he wasn’t just some maniac coach who was going to destroy the program. However, things did work out okay. Very okay.

I leave you with this quote, again from Bacon’s book:

“The funny thing is, the guys on the 1969 team probably stay in touch better than any team I coached. As much as they hated the workouts then, they all brag about it now.

They stayed. They were champions. And I kept my promise.

And we have kept that promise ever since.”

I can’t help but think how much differently Rich Rod may have comported himself had Bo been there to mentor and support him. Maybe he would have just pulled that trigger on day one, and maybe he’d been much better off. Maybe.