Former Michigan football, Detroit Lions coach Gary Moeller dies at age 81

Detroit Free Press

Former Michigan football coach Gary Moeller, who later served as interim coach with the Detroit Lions, died on Monday at the age of 81.

Moeller was a longtime assistant coach under Bo Schembechler and replaced the legendary coach in 1990 upon Schembechler’s retirement.

In five seasons at U-M, Moeller was 44-13-3 and won three Big Ten championship and the 1993 Rose Bowl over Washington. Moeller’s teams finished in the top 20 in the national polls each of his five seasons. He was the head coach in 1991, when Desmond Howard won U-M’s second Heisman Trophy.

Moeller was forced to resign as head coach in the spring of 1995 after he was arrested  for assaulting a police officer and disorderly conduct at a restaurant in Southfield.

After two years on the Cincinnati Bengals staff, Moeller was hired by the Lions as assistant head coach and linebackers coach under Bobby Ross. When Ross resigned midway through the 2000 season, Moeller was promoted to interim head coach and led the Lions to a 4-3 record, narrowly missing the postseason.

He was offered and accepted a contract extension from the Ford Family, but General Manager Matt Millen let him go in 2001, bringing in Marty Mornhinweg.

Moeller finished his coaching career as defensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2001 and linebackers coach for the Chicago Bears for 2002-03.

An Ohio State grad and football letterwinner, Moeller began his coaching career in Ohio in 1963. He joined Schembechler at Miami (Ohio) in 1967 and followed along to Ann Arbor in 1969, first as defensive ends coach and eventually defensive coordinator, beginning in 1973.

Moeller was hired as head coach at Illinois in 1977 and was there for three seasons before returning to U-M in 1980, first as quarterbacks coach until 1982, when he became defensive coordinator again. He was offensive coordinator for Schembechler’s final three seasons (1987-89).

Moeller is survived by his wife, Ann, three daughters, Susan, Amy and Molly, and son, Andy, who played at Michigan.

A visitation for Moeller will be Friday at the Chiles-Laman Funeral Home in Lima, Ohio, followed by a private family funeral on Saturday.

Contact Kirkland Crawford: kcrawford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @HiKirkHere.

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