February 20, 2017 Happy Birthday Anniversary Bo Molenda

Michigan Football Team 1926 | bigbluefootballhistory.com
John “Bo” Molenda is pictured here with the 1926 Michigan Football Team. Molenda is standing in the third row – third man from the left. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

Today’s post celebrates the birthday anniversary of Bo Molenda. John Joseph “Bo” Molenda was born on this day in 1905 in Oglesby, Illinois. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, Molenda’s family moved to Detroit when he was in his teens and he attended Northeastern High School in Detroit. Bo Molenda became an outstanding athlete. He starred in football, basketball, baseball and track. 

Bo Molenda arrived at Michigan in 1924 and spent his first year on the freshman team. He learned the George Little football system and did his best to hit the books so that he would be ready for varsity play in 1925.

John Molenda did not play a down for George Little because he left for a job at Wisconsin. Instead, he would play for the legendary Fielding Yost who opted to return to the sidelines after Michigan’s disappointing season in 1924. Little’s Wolverines finished with a record of 6 wins and 2 losses in 1924, but only finished fourth in the conference. That record would be good for a lot of colleges, but not Michigan and definitely not for the demanding Yost.

Bo Molenda 1925 | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Fullback Bo Molenda picks up some tough yards against Minnesota in 1925. Michigan won the game by a score of 35-0. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

Sophomore Bo Molenda impressed Coach Yost enough to start all eight games of the 1925 season. Things turned out much better for the Wolverines as they ended the season with a final record of 7 wins and only 1 loss. More importantly, they posted a record of 5-1-0 in the conference and won the championship. They came within two points of a perfect season and possible a national championship. Yost publicly stated that the 1925 may have been his best team ever!

Molenda, and his teammates, came back strong in 1926 and finished the season with another 7-1-0 record. However, they went undefeated in the conference (5-0-0) and won another championship for Fielding Yost.

Things changed dramatically for Molenda, and Michigan, after the 1926 season. Fielding Yost would retire and Michigan would have a new coach in 1927 (and a new stadium to fill!). Bo Molenda, who also played basketball for the Wolverines, was having difficulty in school. In February 1927, he was declared ineligible for the second time which essentially banned him from attending Michigan for one year. Sports had always come easy for Molenda, but not the academics. He opted to sign a professional contract to play basketball. That was it for the amateur part of Bo Molenda’s life. He went on to play professional basketball, football and baseball. Later, he coached for the Green Bay Packers and later worked as an athletic director at Menlo College in California.  

Of course, I would not be talking about John “Bo” Molenda today if he wasn’t part of some Michigan football “firsts.” Here are the ones I found for “Bo:”

·         John J. Molenda was the first “Bo” to play at Michigan. Of course, there would be more. One of them became very famous at Michigan!

·         Bo According to Will Perry, Bo Molenda is the first, and only, man in Michigan football history to record more interceptions (5) than points scored in a game as the Wolverines stopped Red Grange and Illinois by a score of 3-0. (You may remember that Grange ran wild against Michigan in a 39-14 rout in 1924.)

·         Bo Molenda played in the first, and only, game in Michigan football history where the Wolverines lost by a score of 2-3 (vs Northwestern) in 1925.

·         The Northwestern game of 1925 was Michigan’s first, and only, game at Soldier Field. (Actually, it was more like a swamp that day as the playing surface was a muddy mess. Michigan didn’t do anything on offense except fumble and make mistakes and punt a lot.)

·         Molenda also became part of Michigan football history when he played in two games against the same Big Ten team in one season. The Wolverines beat Minnesota in Minneapolis by a score of 13-0 in October and ended the season with a narrow victory (7-6) in Ann Arbor to win the Brown Jug twice in the same season. Never happened before and will never happen again!

So, on the one-hundred twelfth twelfth anniversary of his birth, let us remember Bo Molenda for his contributions to the great history of Michigan football. You can read more about the life and times of Bo Molenda at the Wikipedia link below. John J. Molenda died on July 20, 1986 at the age of eighty-one. May Bo Molenda always rest in peace. Go Blue!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bo_Molenda

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1925_Michigan_Wolverines_football_team

http://bentley.umich.edu/athdept/football/fbteam/1926fbt.htm

Of course, today is President’s Day which means that we need to remember the contributions of  Michigan Man and former President of the United States Gerald R. Ford. Looking for someone to model your life after – Gerald Ford is a great place to start! Hail to the Chief and Go Blue. May Gerald Ford always rest in eternal peace.

Barry Gallagher

Barry Gallagher

Barry Gallagher is a self-proclaimed Michigan Football Archeologist. He spends a considerable amount of his time digging into the 138-year history of Wolverine Football. He is on a mission to share his findings with Maize and Blue football fans everywhere. He is the author of one book about Michigan Football titled "21-194-13 Michigan Football's Greatest Era". His second book titled, "The Legend of Bo Schembechler-How an Unknown Buckeye Became the Winningest Coach in Michigan Football History" was released on September 12, 2017. You can learn something about Michigan Football everyday by going to his website at: bigbluefootballhistory.com. You can also follow him on Social Media.
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