Fitting these days, but there’s an oft-told story of the incident in 1980 when Michigan captain Andy Cannavino was fielding complaints from his teammates on Bo’s practices.  Michigan started out 1-2 after squeaking by Northwestern 17-10 and dropping back-to-back games against Notre Dame and South Carolina.  Bo stepped up the workouts and the players were feeling it.

This incident mentioned in Bo’s Lasting Lessons by John U. Bacon, and in ‘BO’ by Mitch Albom, each a must read.  the The tale is nicely recapped by Bob Marshall on, enjoy:

One day, one of the assistant coaches came in to Bo Schembechler’s office and mentioned that there was some complaining on the team. It was being said that Michigan practiced too long and hit too hard during those practices. The players also said that that was why the season was starting so poorly. Bo asked the Assistant who was making those comments. The Assistant said that many players were guilty, but that it was also coming from the team captain. Bo said, “Get him in here.”

Bo was not one to wait when problems occurred. Now the Captain, Andy Cannavino, was a big strong kid. He came into the office and Bo recounted what the Assistant had said. Andy admitted that he had indeed said those things.

At that point Bo said, “The University of Michigan has had a long and illustrious history. Since I have been here we have always had tough practices because football is a tough game. I would like you to tell the Captains of teams gone by that you think our practices are too long and that we hit too hard. I would like you to complain to them. Do you know what they would say to you?

They would tell you that you are a bad team captain, Andy Cannavino, and they would be right. On the field, you represent me. You are the coach on the field and you are letting me, your teammates and the whole program down.” At that point, with a tear flowing down his cheek, Andy Cannavino said, “I understand, Coach. There won’t be any more problems.”

And there weren’t. The team straightened themselves up. There was no more grumbling or complaining. The team finished the season by winning all of the rest of their games and playing, and winning, in the Rose Bowl – not something that the University of Michigan did all of the time. Andy Cannavino was acknowledged as the greatest team captain in Michigan’s history.


  1. I like that story. Funny thing though…Michigan no longer has team captains. Hmmmmmmm.

  2. Cool story, I hadn’t heard that one before.

  3. You can find the story in Bo (Schembechler & Albom) as well. In that version, Bo tells Cannavino that he, not the coaching, is the problem. From there, the story is similar.