Thursday, November 24, 2016

Falk on how the legacy of the 1986 Michigan-Ohio State game molded the legacies of Schembechler and Harbaugh

By: Geno Green
Twitter: @TheGenoGreen

The more the things change, the more they stay the same.

Unlike in professional sports where great teams are more dependent upon players shifting from one team to another, college represents a different dynamic, especially when it comes to rivalries. 

The Michigan-Ohio State rivalry represents the epitome of pageantry and tradition over time, no matter the thousands of players that change over time.

For once quarterback and current coach Jim Harbaugh, "The Game" is something that still reverberates after 30 years, since the last road edition he would compete in.

Through the eyes of longtime Michigan equipment manager and current special adviser Jon Falk, he remembers the 1986 edition of The Game with Harbaugh as the quarterback.

"We played Minnesota that year and it was supposed to be the record-breaking game for Bo (Schembechler) for most wins as a Michigan coach," Falk said. 

"Jimmy then came in and said that all of the players who were recruited by Bo in our class would honor him with the plague after we beat Minnesota that week. I went out and brought a really nice plaque and put on there, Bo Schembechler, 166 career wins as the football coach at Michigan."

Unexpected plot twist:

In the glorious sport of college football, upsets can happen and Michigan fell victim to a 20-17 loss on Senior Day against unranked Minnesota at Michigan Stadium.

The three-point defeat turned into a bigger blow as the possession of the Little Brown Jug returned to Minnesota. Schembechler's commemorative plaque that looked to serve as the icing on the cake at home would have to wait another week against arch rival Ohio State, which featured future Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter and linebacker Chris Spielman.

"Lo and behold, we get beat by Minnesota, 20-17. So, the week of the Ohio State game, a bigger problem needed to be resolved on my end and that would be changing a $600 plaque in time for the game," Falk said. 

"We were able to get down to Columbus and win, 26-24. It was only fitting for Bo to win the record of most wins at Ohio State. After the game, I gave the plague to Jimmy to present it to Bo."

30 years later:

Fast forward 30 years and Falk will get to witness the former quarterback lead Michigan in his first road game in the rivalry as the coach.

Harbaugh offered little insight into the significance of the moment in Tuesday's Big Ten teleconference.

"Yea, I guess (it matters), but I don't know exactly how much it means," Harbaugh said.

The few words mentioned from Harbaugh were by design as the precious present was in full effect and Ohio State preparation served as top priority.

"At Michigan, we have grown into what we call the precious present. In other words, you can't look back, you can't look forward, you have to enjoy the time we have with the precious present," Falk said.

"The precious present is the Michigan Wolverines playing the Ohio State Buckeyes and when those two teams clash, it is one of the greatest games you can be a part of," Falk said. 

"Luckily for me, I have been a part of that game for over 40 years and the emotions that will carry you no matter who wins or loses serves as the ultimate test. I love playing Ohio State and enjoy being at the horseshoe and you have to think of the precious present. When you see those Wolverines and the Buckeyes take that field on Saturday afternoon, you know you are going to be in for one of the greatest clashes of college football that you will witness."

As the late Bo Schembechler once said, "No man is more important than the team, no coach is more important than the team. The team, the team, the team, the team."

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Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.