1969 Michigan Vanderbilt Program

This week we head back exactly 45 years to the opener of the 1969 season and a new era in Michigan Football History.  It was of course the debut of Bo…and Canham’s beloved new carpet:

Speaking of Canham’s carpet, I love this old shot of Dierdorf and Bo:

Bo and Dierdorf inspect new artificial turf

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Today we head back to 1969, a fateful season in Michigan Football lore. This was the first season on the sideline for new coach Glenn Edward Schembechler, Jr. a man today known from coast to coast simply as “Bo”.

But back then Bo was a relatively unproven coach with a funny name and on top of that, a coach Buckeye roots who athletic director Don Canham snatched from Miami. He was the first true outsider to coach the team since Fritz Crisler arrived from Princeton over three decades earlier.

It was on this day in Michigan football history exactly 45 years ago Bo got his first chance to roam the western sideline and lead the maize and blue – or at least those on the roster endured Bo’s brutal style and intense practices and stayed….

Vanderbilt was the opponent on September 20, 1969 and the Commodores got the experience of not only facing a new Michigan head coach, but Don Canham’s new “carpet” – that is, artificial turf.

Canham was so proud of the new surface that the program for this game didn’t show Bo, or his players or even a picturesque scene on the athletic campus – it simply featured a photo of the new field and some sort of vacuum-like machine at the 50 yard line. Hmm..

But fortunately for Michigan the real story on this day was Schembechler’s Debut, and he gave the 70,000 fans who bothered to show up a taste of what Michigan football would look like for the next 2 decades.

All told he ran the ball 54 times and piled up over 360 yards on the day in the 42-14 pounding of the Commodores.

The following week was more of the same, although the Big House was less than half full – literally – as under 50,000 entered the gates. This time Bo ran the ball 63 times for over 370 yards as the #20th ranked Wolverines pummeled Washington 45-7.

So that’s how the Schembechler era started in Ann Arbor – with a resounding brand of smash mouth football. But how did the 1969 end? That’s a story for future edition of This Week in Michigan Football history…

For more, Checkout @MVictors on Twitter and WTKA.com – for the KeyBank Countdown to Kickoff, this is Greg Dooley.


  1. Here’s Dierdorf a year ago, to Newsday:

    “I spent every day of my professional career practicing on AstroTurf,” he said, recalling an era when artificial turf was far less forgiving than today, “nothing but blacktop with a piece of indoor/outdoor carpet on top of it. We might as well have been practicing on a shopping center parking lot.” http://www.newsday.com/sports/columnists/neil-best/cbs-analyst-dan-dierdorf-ending-30-year-career-1.6478493

  2. At some point during that ’69 season, the MMB did a show featuring the 1812 Overture. They set off a cannon on the field and burned a hole in the astroturf. Supposedly, there’s a fantastic picture out there of Canham and Revelli sadly standing over it, but I’ve never been able to locate it.