Former Michigan and Detroit Lions Coach Gary Moeller Dead at 81
"Complicated" might sum up the coaching career of Gary Moeller, who died Monday at the age of 81. Moeller, who succeeded "Bo" Schembechler as the coach at the University of Michigan, only coached the Wolverines for five seasons before resigning after a drunken incident and a disorderly conduct charge at a Detroit area restaurant.
Two "what ifs" are attached to Moeller's career. If the incident hadn't happened at the Excalibur Restaurant in Southfield, he might have coached Michigan for two decades as did Schembechler. And if the Chicago Bears don't kick that field goal in 2000, the Lions don't miss the playoffs and he might have stayed on for some success with the Lions. Until Jim Caldwell, Moeller was the only Lions coach with a winning record since Joe Schmidt. His Bowl record at Michigan was 4-1 including a Rose Bowl win and loss and an undefeated season.
Moeller's career crossed paths with the two most famous coaches in the long Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. Moeller played three years for legendary Buckeyes coach Woody Hayes. He then started his coaching career at the high school level before joining Schembechler at Miami of Ohio and then followed him to Michigan.
Moeller left to take the Illinois job but wasn't able to have any success with the Fighting Illini and was let go after three seasons. He then returned to Ann Arbor and rejoined Schembechler's staff. When Schembechler stepped down to become athletic director, Moeller was named as his successor in 1990. The incident in 1995 brought an abrupt end to his U of M career.
Moeller then joined the Cincinnati Bengals for two seasons as an assistant before hiring on with the new Detroit Lions coach Bobby Ross. Ross abruptly resigned midway through the 2000 season and Lions owner William Clay Ford gave Moeller a three-year contract. But the Lions just missed the 2000 playoffs, and Ford brought in Matt Millen to run the team, and Millen fired Moeller. Moeller coached several more seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars and finally with the Bears.