Ex-Michigan coach who started at area high school, Miami U. dead at 81

FILE - Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz, right, is congratulated by Michigan coach Gray Moeller, left, after Notre Dame defeated Michigan, Sept 11, 1993, in Ann Arbor, Mich. Former Michigan, Illinois and Detroit Lions coach Moeller died Monday, July 11, 2022. He was 81. The University of Michigan announced his death, and no cause was provided. (AP Photo/Duane Burieson, File)

Combined ShapeCaption
FILE - Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz, right, is congratulated by Michigan coach Gray Moeller, left, after Notre Dame defeated Michigan, Sept 11, 1993, in Ann Arbor, Mich. Former Michigan, Illinois and Detroit Lions coach Moeller died Monday, July 11, 2022. He was 81. The University of Michigan announced his death, and no cause was provided. (AP Photo/Duane Burieson, File)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Gary Moeller, who succeeded Bo Schembechler as Michigan’s coach and later led the Detroit Lions as interim coach, died Monday. He was 81.

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

Moeller had his first coaching job at Bellefontaine High School in 1965. In 1967, he became the freshman football coach at Miami University in Oxford. Two years later, he went to Michigan as an assistant for Bo Schembechler.

Moeller was promoted from offensive coordinator to lead the Wolverines' program in 1990 and was 44-13-3 over five seasons.

“Gary Moeller was a great family man, great friend, great coach, and a man of integrity and high character,” Lloyd Carr, who succeeded Moeller as Michigan's coach, said in a statement. “I admired him, I respected him and I loved him.”

The two-time Big Ten coach of the year won a conference championship in each of his first three years and had four bowl victories, including the 1993 Rose Bowl over Washington. 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 Chicago's Paul Edinger made a 54-yard field goal with 2 seconds left to lift the Bears to victory in the regular-season finale, knocking the Lions out of playoff contention.

“He also suffered bad breaks, and poor timing in his career,” former Michigan player and broadcaster Jim Brandstatter said. “But, you never heard Gary Moeller complain or make excuses. He was a class act. He was a good man.”

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 set a Big Ten record by winning 19 straight conference games.

“He was one of the giants in modern football history at Michigan,” Brandstatter said.

He is survived by his wife, Ann, their daughters, Susan, Amy and Molly, and their son, Andy, who was a linebacker and captain for the Wolverines and an assistant coach for the Cleveland Browns.

Combined ShapeCaption
FILE - Detroit Lions coach Gary Moeller, top, talks with centers Eric Beverly, left, and Mike Compton, right, in the third quarter of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Nov. 12, 2000, in Pontiac, Mich. Former Michigan, Illinois and Lions coach Moeller died Monday, July 11, 2022. He was 81. The University of Michigan announced his death, and no cause was provided. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson, File)

Credit: DUANE BURLESON

FILE - Detroit Lions coach Gary Moeller, top, talks with centers Eric Beverly, left, and Mike Compton, right, in the third quarter of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Nov. 12, 2000, in Pontiac, Mich. Former Michigan, Illinois and Lions coach Moeller died Monday, July 11, 2022. He was 81. The University of Michigan announced his death, and no cause was provided. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson, File)

Credit: DUANE BURLESON

Combined ShapeCaption
FILE - Detroit Lions coach Gary Moeller, top, talks with centers Eric Beverly, left, and Mike Compton, right, in the third quarter of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Nov. 12, 2000, in Pontiac, Mich. Former Michigan, Illinois and Lions coach Moeller died Monday, July 11, 2022. He was 81. The University of Michigan announced his death, and no cause was provided. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson, File)

Credit: DUANE BURLESON

Credit: DUANE BURLESON

Combined ShapeCaption
FILE - Former Michigan football coach Gary Moeller watches the second half of an exhibition NCAA college basketball game against Wayne State in Ann Arbor, Mich., Nov. 4, 2013. Former Michigan, Illinois and Detroit Lions coach Moeller died Monday, July 11, 2022. He was 81. The University of Michigan announced his death, and no cause was provided. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

Credit: Paul Sancya

FILE - Former Michigan football coach Gary Moeller watches the second half of an exhibition NCAA college basketball game against Wayne State in Ann Arbor, Mich., Nov. 4, 2013. Former Michigan, Illinois and Detroit Lions coach Moeller died Monday, July 11, 2022. He was 81. The University of Michigan announced his death, and no cause was provided. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

Credit: Paul Sancya

Combined ShapeCaption
FILE - Former Michigan football coach Gary Moeller watches the second half of an exhibition NCAA college basketball game against Wayne State in Ann Arbor, Mich., Nov. 4, 2013. Former Michigan, Illinois and Detroit Lions coach Moeller died Monday, July 11, 2022. He was 81. The University of Michigan announced his death, and no cause was provided. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

Credit: Paul Sancya

Credit: Paul Sancya

Combined ShapeCaption
FILE - Detroit Lions head coach Gary Moeller yells from the sideline during the second quarter of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Nov. 19, 2000, in East Rutherford, N.J. Former Michigan, Illinois and Lions coach Moeller died Monday, July 11, 2022. He was 81. The University of Michigan announced his death, and no cause was provided. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Credit: MARK LENNIHAN

FILE - Detroit Lions head coach Gary Moeller yells from the sideline during the second quarter of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Nov. 19, 2000, in East Rutherford, N.J. Former Michigan, Illinois and Lions coach Moeller died Monday, July 11, 2022. He was 81. The University of Michigan announced his death, and no cause was provided. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Credit: MARK LENNIHAN

Combined ShapeCaption
FILE - Detroit Lions head coach Gary Moeller yells from the sideline during the second quarter of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Nov. 19, 2000, in East Rutherford, N.J. Former Michigan, Illinois and Lions coach Moeller died Monday, July 11, 2022. He was 81. The University of Michigan announced his death, and no cause was provided. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Credit: MARK LENNIHAN

Credit: MARK LENNIHAN