Niles multi-sport standout/coach Bo Rein to be feature of ESPN 30 for 30 documentary
By Steve Ruman
He has been a household name in Niles ever since the 1960s when he dazzled sports fans with his athletic prowess.
Now, the rest of the country is about to get a closer look at Robert “Bo” Rein.
Rein, the multi-sport McKinley High standout who helped lead the Red Dragons to football glory, will be featured in an upcoming ESPN 30 for 30 documentary. The program, which will focus on Rein’s collegiate coaching career, is tentatively scheduled to air in the spring of 2015.
Rein was a three-sport standout at Niles McKinley, where he earned All-Ohio status in 1962 in both football and baseball. He went on to become a three-year starting halfback at Ohio State. He was the Buckeyes’ leading receiver as a sophomore and junior, and the Buckeyes’ top rusher in 1966.
Rein also played baseball at OSU. He was a shortstop and outfielder for the Buckeyes’ College World Series championship team of 1966. Following his senior year, Rein was drafted by both the NFL’s Baltimore Colts and baseball’s Cleveland Indians.
While playing for the Portland Beavers, the Indians’ Triple-A farm team, Rein suffered career-ending leg injuries. He turned to coaching, where he became an immediate success.
Rein began his collegiate coaching career under Lou Holtz at William & Mary. When Holtz was hired by North Carolina State in 1972, Rein followed, and became an offensive backfield coach for three years before being named offensive coordinator at Arkansas in 1975.
After the ’75 season, Holtz left N.C. State for the pros, and the Wolfpack turned to Rein to guide its football program. At age 30, Rein became the nation’s youngest major-college head coach
The Pack finished 3-7-1 in Rein’s first year. But N.C. State went 8-4 and 9-3 the next two years, then won the ACC title in 1979, going 5-1 in the league and 7-4 overall.
In November of 1979, Louisiana State University hired Rein away from N.C. State in hopes of restoring its football fortunes. However, Rein would never coach another game.
On Jan. 10, 1980, Rein took a recruiting trip to Shreveport, La. He was on a private plane back to Baton Rouge when the plane suddenly veered off course, climbing to 40,000 feet. The twin-engine Cessna flew more than 1,000 miles in a northeasterly direction before it ran out of gas and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean about 100 miles east of Norfolk, Va.
“We’re presenting this story from an LSU perspective as, ‘The greatest coach that never was,” said ESPN representative Brian Goodwin. “There was such an incredible buzz in Louisiana when Bo was hired. At the time he truly was looked upon as that great up-and-coming coach. Our story centers around what could have been.”
Holtz and Bill Cowher — who played for Rein at North Carolina State — are among those already interviewed for the documentary. Goodwin and his crew also spent time with Rein’s widow Suzanne, and his daughter Linea. Both were in Baton Rouge earlier this fall to take part in a ceremony honoring Rein prior to an LSU game.
“Ironically, for both it was their first visit to Tiger Stadium,” Goodwin said.
The ESPN crew spent Friday filming various Rein-related memorabilia throughout McKinley High School and at Bo Rein Stadium. They also conducted a lengthy interview with Bobby Morrison, a 1963 Niles graduate who went on to become a longtime assistant coach at Michigan.
Morrison was an assistant under Rein at North Carolina State, then followed him to LSU.
“It is absolutely outstanding that Bo’s story is going to be told to a national audience — it’s long overdue,” Morrison said. “There is no doubt in my mind that had Bo lived, he would have become one of the all-time coaching greats. He was highly regarded by every single person in the profession.”
Morrison recalled his final moments with Rein.
“Bo and I went out for a run, then I was with Bo as he got on the plane to head to Shreveport,” Morrison said. “Later that night, I woke up from a sleep soaking wet. It was as if I knew something was drastically wrong. The next thing I know, I get word from another assistant that Bo’s plane had gone missing.
“That night, football lost a great coach and I lost a great friend.”
Weeks after his Rein’s death, the Niles board of education voted to rename Riverside Stadium in his honor.