This is a CNN Special Report, 'Bo Schembechler - America Mourns'
This is Anderson Cooper in New York. We continue with our round-the-clock coverage of the State Funeral Services for the great Bo Schembechler. We go now to our on-the-scene correspondent Christiane Amanpour in Ann Arbor.
Anderson, the reason I am speaking in a low voice is that we are at a solemn moment in the proceedings, the muffled drums are playing as the cortege hauled by six matching Chrysler K Cars bearing Coach Schembechler is pulling up in front of Schembechler Hall, where Michigan athletes practice, live and store their firearms. Coach Schembechler will lie in state in the rotunda.
Christiane, please provide us with some of the feeling there, what the mood is like.
Right now Anderson, as you can see, a very poignant moment. The grieving widow, in a simple black dress and veil stands proud and erect, providing strength to an entire mourning state. As Coach Schembechler's coffin is carried up the steps of Schembechler Hall, she leans over and whispers to the small boy whose hand she holds, a single tear rolling down his cheek. A heartbreaking. emotional scene which will forever be etched in the memory of a grieving state occurs as the tearful little boy in knee pants and Buster Brown shoes, bravely lets go of the woman's hand and steps forward and salutes the passing fallen leader.
Christiane, had there been any indication ahead of time that Lee Corso would encourage Chris Fowler to make such a poignant gesture?
No Anderson, it appears to be a spontaneous idea of Corso's which he whispered to Fowler on the spot. As you now notice Anderson, all of the rich symbolism of a state funeral is present today. Just as we saw the riderless horse at President Kennedy's funeral, next in the procession comes a Michigan ROTC student walking behind the cortege, his bare, unbejeweled hand aloft -- the revered Ringless Hand -- symbolizing the absence of superfluous and distracting national championships during the reign of Coach Schembechler, which was devoted to the prime goal of crushing Illinois, Northwestern and Minnesota.
Following the Ringless Hand comes a congregation of great leaders and statesmen from around college football, marching in the procession as a show of respect, including the seventeen lesser coaches who were able to win national championships at other schools during the period Bo coached.
Christiane, being a New York metrosexual I know next to nothing of sports, explain for our audience who may not be familiar with football the great achievements of Coach Schembechler and why he occupies such an important place in some parts of the country. Talk to us of the Heisman Trophy winners he mentored, the championships and bowl games he won.
Well, Anderson, as in the Middle East, this is a unique culture. Bo is worshipped due to factors the outsider may not understand because his personality is so exemplary of the qualities admired here. What those outside would consider "failure", makes them love him only more. If I might draw an analogy, in a similar way, many westerners were puzzled at the huge outpouring of grief at the funeral of Yassir Arafat, a man who led the Palestinian people to poverty and much turmoil while never delivering the ultimate prize of an autonomous nation. Yet here, as there, the very act of failing has propelled the fallen leader to even greater heights and hysteria, mourning and adoration have followed. So, for example, football experts in the upper midwest point out that coaches like John McKay, Ara Parseghian, Darrell Royal, Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Barry Switzer -- all contemporaries of Coach Schembechler and all of whom won multiple national championships -- did not exhibit the personality traits so essential to success in the Big Ten of that day, such as completely rigid strategic thinking, and frequent visible, violent displays of temper toward players and fans.
Describe the scene inside the Rotunda for us now Christiane
At this point, Anderson, a very solemn moment is occurring. The Michigan band, reputed to be better than the symphonies in Berlin and London is playing "Lets Go Blue" in C Minor in mournful, dirge-like funeral-time while a delegation of former Schembechler players -- some of whom are graduates of the University of Michigan -- are placing a wreath of their mentor's bier, consisting of two roses and eight thorns, representing the great coaches record in that game. We are now going to listen to part of the eulogy from Big Ten Chaplain the Rev. I. M. Whitebread.
We come today to honor a great man, a man who sought the Lord through his own lights and not through the intercession of any Romish potentate. Nor did he seek or encourage keeping the company of or scheduling those who did. Instead, Bo stood for the things we all most admire, the use of overwhelming talent and resource advantages to mercilessly crush the token opposition of generally hopelessly outmatched opponents. That clarity of purpose and purity of intention left him with the Lord's sure guidance that he could at least split 50-50 with Ohio State and spend the first week of January in California every other year, where whatever happens does not matter, since it is a place of sin and iniquity. Amen. Rock of Ages will now be sung by the Men's Chorale of the Ann Arbor Masonic Lodge.
Touching words by the Reverend, Christiane. Give us a little more sense of the color and pageantry.
Well people from all around college football are here. A cavalcade of Escalades from which disembarked young men wearing Kevlar sweatervests signalled the arrival of a delegation of Ohio State players here to pay their respects. In the rear of the service intermittent yelps and high-fives indicate the presence of Coach Pete Carroll, who told us in an exclusive interview that he was "jacked" and "stoked" to be here and even put off his weekly tanning and Botox sessions.
I understand you had an exclusive interview with Coach Lloyd Carr on his reaction to the passing of his great mentor. Why don't we cut to that now.
Well Christiane, it is a great loss. Bo was such a great man. I just think of all the things I no longer will have the pleasure of. You know, even though he didn't coach here for seventeen years he still kept an office right down the hall from me and would come in every week to give me his thoughts. That was always very special. And I know I will miss hearing his advice on how to prepare for bowl games even though I have managed to win more than I lost. But I guess that just shows how great he was. And I know that I sure will miss having him come to talk to my team every year, you know, me having won at least a half of a national championship, it still was great to hear Bo's thoughts on things every day. You know, a lot of coaches when they quit, they kind of go away, stay out of the limelight, try to make sure they aren't always giving their opinions or interjecting themselves. But Bo was too great a guy to deny me that. Yes, I'm really going to miss him.
Now some commentary from Wolf Blitzer for some perspective on this momentous day.
It has indeed been a momentous day Anderson. A day when we mourn the passing of a man who would not pass. A day when a coach who never went vertical goes permanently horizontal. A day when a man who believed in three yards and a cloud of dust returns to dust. A day when a man who could never win the big one bought the big one. Stay with CNN for continuing coverage of the State Funeral of Bo Schembechler.