"It's terrible," interrupts Bo. "That's all. Look, nobody can eat it."
"But, Bo," says Millie, "I got the recipe from the cookbook Barbara Dooley [wife of Georgia football coach Vince] sent me. It's Extra Rich Georgia Pecan Pie with molasses. I did...."
Bo interrupts, of course. "See, the problem is the ingredients aren't any good. Then you messed up cooking it. That's that. Got it?"
The subject is closed. And Bo is right, it did happen to be less than great pecan pie. But heck, it was Barbara Dooley's fault, and she was 600 miles away. The point is, this is classic Bo Schembechler. He talks straight ahead; no matter what the circumstances, he says exactly what's on his mind; he makes judgments on everything; he is secure in every way; he dominates everywhere and everybody. All of which makes him, remarkable as it sounds, a good guy up close. A really good guy.
"It must be great to feel as confident as he does," says Millie, "but he truly is a good person. All I have to do is what Bo's mother told me. She said, 'Handling him is easy. Just remember that when he loses a game, don't talk to him.' And he does hurt so bad when he loses one of those dumb football games."
O.K., from a distance, Bo comes on like a yahoo. And that's Bo's public image. He has had horrible problems with the press, which has this nasty habit of wanting to talk to him when he loses, his mother's advice notwithstanding. But even if the media's timing were better, it probably wouldn't make much difference, because Bo hates the press. Not just a little. A lot. The Voice of Michigan Football, Bob Ufer, says he has tried to get Schembechler to be nicer to the media. "But he told me," says Ufer, " 'Bob, if I win I don't need the press, and if I lose they can't help me.' " Ufer defends Schembechler, whose record at Michigan over 12 years is 114-21-3; Bo's teams have won the Big Ten championship twice and tied for it seven times. Says Ufer, "Bo has two categories of things in his life: what matters and what doesn't matter. What matters is football. What doesn't matter is everything else. Bo is the kind of guy who is so dedicated that he doesn't realize how he's coming off."
Woody Hayes, former Ohio State coach and noted expert on press relations, says of Bo, "He's a hothead, like me. If you get along with most of the press, I think you have to be a little bit crooked." Bobby Knight, coach of the NCAA-champion Indiana basketball team, who has had some problems with the press himself, snorts, "Bad press relations aren't always the coach's fault, you know. You've heard those dumb questions at press conferences. Hell, you've asked some of them." Not surprisingly, these three supercoaches—Woody, Bo and Bobby—account for 84.5% of all problems members of their profession have had with the press.
The whys and wherefores are difficult and always different. "It's because most writers aren't worth a damn," says Bo helpfully. So while some coaches like to go out and drink with sports-writers. Bo would prefer to break out in warts.
Like in 1973, when Ohio State and Michigan both finished the regular season 10-0-1. Even though the Buckeyes had gone to the Rose Bowl the previous year, the Big Ten athletic directors voted to send them again. Bo was more than a little sore. So sore, and so outspoken, in fact, that the conference adopted a coaches' code of conduct and put Bo—actually, put Bo's mouth—on probation for two years. It meant nothing, of course, because the conference would never have disciplined either Hayes or Schembechler, only the other, non-imperial, coaches. Bo never did say he was sorry for his outbursts. "Sorry for what?" he said years later. "Telling the truth?"
Until a couple of years ago, he would routinely storm out of press conferences, kick reporters out of the sessions ("Don't be offended," says one of Bo's friends. "He'd kick Millie out, too"), make himself unavailable and order his players not to talk. Talking very softly once at a press conference, he was asked to speak up. "I'm speaking as loudly as I can," said Bo softly—and arrogantly. And in a memorable set-to on Oct. 1, 1979, Schembechler gave an absolutely unnecessary push to a publicity-seeking college newspaper reporter.