LIMA, Ohio — Gary Moeller, the longtime assistant and head coach for the University of Michigan football program passed away Monday morning (July 11). Moeller, 81, spent 23 years associated with the Michigan football program. He was one of 11 coaches in school history to work with the program for more than 20 years, and one of five among those 11 individuals that served as head coach of the Wolverines (1990-94).
Moeller guided the Wolverines to four bowl game victories 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 directed teams to three Big Ten Championships, five bowl appearances (1991 Gator, 1992 and 1993 Rose, 1994 Hall of Fame, and 1994 Holiday), and five straight finishes in the top 20 of the final national polls.
Moeller’s Wolverines set a Big Ten record by winning 19 consecutive conference games from 1990 through 1992. 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 coaches 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 at Miami (Ohio) for the 1967 and 1968 seasons and made the move to Michigan with Bo in 1969. Moeller served as the defensive ends coach until being promoted to defensive coordinator in 1973. His defensive units led the nation in scoring defense in 1974 and 1976.
In 1977, Moeller took over as head coach at the University of Illinois, a position he would hold for three years before returning to Ann Arbor in 1980 as the Wolverines’ quarterback coach. Moeller resumed duties as defensive coordinator from 1982-87. As his units did twice in the mid-1970s, the 1985 squad led the nation in scoring defense. Before being named 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 son, Andy, a former linebacker and captain for the Wolverines.
The family will hold a visitation on Friday, July 15, from 2-8 p.m. at Chiles-Laman Funeral Home in Lima, Ohio (1170 Shawnee Road). A private family funeral will be held on Saturday, July 16.
Following are statements from athletic department officials:
The football world lost a great man in Gary Moeller. Coach Moeller cared for his players and his teams and was devoted to the University of Michigan. He gave a lot to the game of football, excelling as both an offensive and defensive coordinator and head coach in the college and NFL ranks.
We have lost a wonderful family man. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Ann, as well as their daughters Susan, Amy and Molly, and my former teammate and fellow captain Andy.
Rest in peace, Coach Mo, and Go Blue!
— Jim Harbaugh, Michigan’s J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach
Gary Moeller was a great family man, great friend, great coach and a man of integrity and high character. I admired him, I respected him and I loved him.
— Lloyd Carr, retired Michigan head football coach
I was fortunate enough to work with Coach Mo at both Miami (Ohio) and Michigan. Gary Moeller was a coach that looked out for everyone that worked with him and for all of the players that played for him and represented our program. He was a good-hearted man who made decisions and sought input from his staff to make sure that the decisions were right for Michigan. Gary Moeller will be missed but will not be forgotten. He was a great Michigan Man and close friend to my family.
— Jon Falk, retired Michigan football equipment manager
So sad to hear of Gary Moeller’s passing.
In my judgement, he was one of the giants in modern football history at Michigan. As 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 “outside the box” game plans and strategies that gave Michigan an edge on their opponents. Sometimes even when outmanned, Moeller would find a way as a coordinator to have his guys ready to play the game of their lives.
As a 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 champs, managed just three field goals against Michigan and Moeller’s defense. The best single-game defensive performance I ever witnessed from a Michigan team.
As an offensive coordinator, he innovated a no-huddle offense for Michigan, and was instrumental in getting Desmond Howard in positions 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 level, Mo was a player’s coach. He cared about those players after they got done playing. Mo loved leadership! While he was an X’s and O’s genius, he always felt the most important aspect of a player’s character was developing their leadership traits. He never stopped coaching attitude and character. He loved players who exhibited leadership skills, and believed they were the heart and soul of any team he coached.
He also suffered bad breaks, and poor timing in his career. But, you never heard Gary Moeller complain or make excuses. He was a class act. He was a good man.
I am deeply humbled when people refer to me as a “Michigan Man.” In my opinion, Gary Moeller was as fine a “Michigan Man” as you’ll find. At Michigan football we have lost a giant. Gary Moeller, an Ohio State graduate, belongs in the front row of Michigan football greats. He unfortunately suffered more adversity than he deserved, and yet came through it with his strength and his character intact.
I pray for his wife Ann, and his family. He was a fabulous Dad. He was a great friend. I loved the guy. I’m not the only one. I will miss him. Rest in peace Mo.
— Jim Brandstatter, retired Michigan radio and television analyst; former Michigan player