Gary Moeller, former Michigan and Illinois coach, dies at 81

He later coached the Bears’ linebackers for two seasons.

SHARE Gary Moeller, former Michigan and Illinois coach, dies at 81
Former Michigan, Illinois and Detroit Lions coach Moeller died Monday, July 11, 2022. He was 81. Moeller also served as a linebackers coach for the Bears.

Former Michigan, Illinois and Detroit Lions coach Moeller died Monday, July 11, 2022. He was 81. Moeller also served as a linebackers coach for the Bears.

Paul Sancya/AP

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Gary Moeller, who succeeded Bo Schembechler as Michigan’s coach and later worked in the NFL, including a stint as interim coach of the Detroit Lions, died Monday. He was 81.

The University of Michigan announced his death, and no cause was provided.

Moeller was promoted from offensive coordinator to lead the Wolverines’ program in 1990.

The two-time Big Ten coach of the year won a conference championship in each of his first three years and was 44-13-3 with four bowl victories over five seasons. He resigned in May 1995, less than a week after he was arrested on charges stemming from a drunken outburst at a restaurant in suburban Detroit.

Moeller bounced back in his personal and professional life, becoming tight ends coach for the Cincinnati Bengals that same year. He went on to lead the Lions’ linebackers and was their interim coach in 2000 after Bobby Ross quit midway through the season.

Moeller was 4-3 as Detroit’s interim coach and was perhaps a missed kick away from keeping his job. He was fired after the Bears’ Paul Edinger made a 54-yard field goal with 2 seconds left to lift Chicago to victory in the regular-season finale, knocking the Lions out of playoff contention.

The Jacksonville Jaguars hired Moeller to be their defensive coordinator in 2001 and he later coached the Bears’ linebackers for two seasons.

Moeller, who was from Lima, Ohio, played linebacker and was a captain for Woody Hayes at Ohio State. He was an assistant for Schembechler at Miami (Ohio) and joined him on his first staff at Michigan in 1969.

Moeller struggled in his first head coaching job, going 6-24-3 from 1977 to 1979 at Illinois. He returned to work for Schembechler and later made a successful transition to coaching offense and became an innovative coordinator.

With a relatively wide-open approach and willingness to throw the ball as head coach, he helped Desmond Howard win the Heisman Trophy in 1991 during a stretch in which the Wolverines won 19 straight Big Ten games.

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