Gary Moeller, who succeeded Bo Schembechler as Michigan’s soccer coach in 1990 and led the Wolverines to three Big Ten titles in five seasons, died Monday at the age of 81, the university said.
Moeller’s cause of death was not specified by the school.
“Gary Moeller was a great family man, a great friend, a great coach and a man of integrity and high character,” former Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr, who succeeded Moeller as Michigan head coach in 1995, said in a statement . “I admired him, I respected him and I loved him.”
Moeller had a record of 44-13-3 in five seasons (1990–1994) as head coach of the Wolverines and led his teams to a 4-1 record in bowl game appearances. Additionally, his teams set a Big Ten record with 19 consecutive conference wins from 1990–92, and he was twice Big Ten Coach of the Year.
“The football world has lost a great man in Gary Moeller,” current Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh – who was teammate and captain of Moeller’s son Andy – said in a statement. “Coach Moeller cared about his players and his teams and devoted himself to the University of Michigan. He brought a lot to the game of football, excelling as both an offensive and defensive coordinator and as a head coach in the collegiate and NFL ranks.”
Moeller, who was from Lima, Ohio, played linebacker and captained for Ohio State’s Woody Hayes. He worked for Schembechler in Miami (Ohio) in 1967 and 1968 before following him to Michigan in 1969. He was at Michigan until 1977, when he became the head coach at Illinois, going 6-24-3 in three seasons. He returned as an assistant coach to the Wolverines from 1980 to 1989, where he served for two seasons as quarterbacks coach, five seasons as defensive coordinator, and three seasons as offensive coordinator before succeeding Schembechler as head coach in 1990. He is retired.
He was associated with the University of Michigan for 23 years and was one of 11 school history coaches to have worked with the program for more than 20 years.
Moeller resigned as Michigan head coach in May 1995, less than a week after he was arrested for a drunken outburst at a suburban Detroit restaurant.
After retiring, Moeller moved to the NFL, serving in various assistant coaching roles for the Cincinnati Bengals (tight ends), Detroit Lions (linebacker), Jacksonville Jaguars (defensive coordinator), and Chicago Bears (linebacker) from 1995-2003 Head coach of the Lions in 2000 after Bobby Ross resigned and led the team to a 4-3 record.
“I’ve been fortunate to work with Coach Mo in both Miami (Ohio) and Michigan,” former equipment manager Jon Falk said in a statement. “Gary Moeller was a coach who cared about everyone who worked with him and all the players who played for him and represented our program. He was a kindhearted man who made decisions and sought input from his employees to ensure Michigan’s decisions were right. Gary Moeller will be missed but not forgotten. He was a great man from Michigan and a close friend of my family.”
He is survived by his wife Anne, daughters Susan, Amy and Molly, and son Andy, who was a former Michigan linebacker and captain.
The family will hold a visit on July 15 in Lima, Ohio, followed by a private family funeral the following day.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.