Gary Moeller, Michigan’s longtime assistant head football coach, passes away
// Dave Drain, Chad Shepard
LIMA, Ohio — Gary Moller, the longtime assistant and head coach of the University of Michigan soccer program, passed away on Monday morning (July 11). Moeller, 81, spent 23 years with the Michigan Football Program. He was one of 11 coaches in the school’s history to have worked with the program for more than 20 years, and one of five of those 11 people to serve as the Wolverines’ head coach (1990-94).
Moeller led the Wolverines to four bowl wins and a 44-13-3 overall record in his five years as head coach, including a win over Washington in the 1993 Rose Bowl. Moeller led teams to three Big Ten championships, five bowl appearances ( 1991 Gator, 1992 and 1993 Rose, 1994 Hall of Fame and 1994 Holiday) and five direct top 20 finishes in the most recent national polls.
Moeller’s Wolverines set a Big Ten record by winning 19 straight conference games from 1990–92. By winning the Big Ten title in his first season as head coach, he joined Fielding Yost, Bennie Oosterbaan and Bo Schembechler as the only coach in school history to accomplish the feat.
After graduating from Ohio State in 1963, Moeller began his coaching career at Bellefontaine High School in Ohio. He joined Schembechler’s staff in Miami, Ohio during the 1967 and 1968 seasons and moved to Michigan with Bo in 1969. Moeller served as defensive ends coach until 1973, when he was promoted to defensive coordinator. His defensive units led the nation in goals in defense in 1974 and 1976.
In 1977, Moeller accepted the position of head coach at the University of Illinois, a position he held for three years before returning to Ann Arbor in 1980 as quarterback coach for the Wolverines. Moeller served again as defensive coordinator from 1982 to 1987. As its units did twice in the mid-1970s, the 1985 squad led the nation in goal defense. Before becoming Michigan’s head coach in 1990, Moeller served as the team’s offensive coordinator for three seasons (1987-89).
Moeller is survived by his wife Ann, three daughters, Susan, Amy and Molly, and their son Andy, a former linebacker and captain of the Wolverines.
The family will make a visit on Friday, July 15 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Chiles-Laman Funeral Home in Lima, Ohio (1170 Shawnee Road). A private family funeral will be held on Saturday 16 July.
The following are testimonies from officials in the Department of Athletics:
Gary Moeller was a great family man, great friend, great coach, and a man of integrity and character. I admired him, I respected him and I loved him.
— Lloyd Carr, retired Michigan football coach
I’ve been fortunate to work with Coach Mo in both Miami, Ohio and Michigan. Gary Moeller was a coach who cared about everyone who worked with him and all the players who played for him and represented our program. He was a kindhearted man who made decisions and sought input from his employees to ensure Michigan’s decisions were right. Gary Moeller will be missed but not forgotten. He was a great man from Michigan and a close friend of my family.
— Jon Falk, retired Michigan soccer equipment manager
So sad to hear of the passing of Gary Moeller.
In my opinion he was one of the giants in modern football history at Michigan. As a head coach, he won Big Ten Championships, Rose Bowls, and countless big games against Notre Dame, MSU, and Ohio State.
As an assistant, he was instrumental in developing “out of the box” game plans and strategies that gave Michigan an advantage over their opponents. Sometimes, even when he wasn’t busy, Moeller, as coordinator, found a way to get his people ready to play the game of their lives.
As defensive coordinator, he developed a defense in the Sugar Bowl against Auburn that kept Bo Jackson, Lionel James and Tommy Agee, three future NFL running backs, out of the end zone. Auburn, eventual national champions, managed just three field goals against the Michigan and Moeller defenses. Best defensive performance in a game I’ve seen from a Michigan team.
As offensive coordinator, he developed a no-huddle offense for Michigan and was instrumental in enabling Desmond Howard to have an incredible year and win the Heisman Trophy. He was an incredible football coach.
More importantly, he was overwhelmingly loved and respected by his players. At both the professional and collegiate levels, Mo was a player’s coach. He took care of these players after they finished playing. Mo loved leadership! Despite being an X-and-O genius, he always believed that the most important aspect of a player’s character was developing their leadership skills. He never stopped training attitude and character. He loved players who showed leadership qualities and believed they were the heart and soul of every team he coached.
He also suffered bad breaks and bad timing in his career. But you’ve never heard Gary Moeller complain or apologize. He was class. He was a good man.
I am deeply humbled when people refer to me as “Michigan Man”. In my opinion, Gary Moeller was as fine a Michigan Man as you will find. We lost a giant in Michigan football. Ohio State graduate Gary Moeller is one of Michigan’s front-row football greats. He sadly endured more adversity than he deserved, yet weathered it with his strength and character.
I pray for his wife Ann and his family. He was a fabulous father. He was a great friend. i loved the guy. I’m not the only one. I will miss him. rest in peace Mon.
— Jim Brandstätter, retired radio and television analyst from Michigan; former Michigan player