In Niles, Bo Rein’s name is synonymous with football. Throughout the Mahoning Valley, he is recognized by the stadium which bears his name.
Now, thanks to an ESPN Films production, the rest of the nation has been given the opportunity to know Bo.
On Sept. 15, the SEC Network premiered a 30-minute documentary entitled “The Bo You Don’t Know.” The show details the life of the Niles native, focusing on Rein’s short but distinguished coaching career and his untimely death.
“The Bo You Don’t Know” has aired numerous times on the SEC Network. It will make its ESPN debut on Oct. 13 at 10:30 a.m.
Rein was a three-sport standout at Niles McKinley High School who went on to become a three-year starting halfback and captain at Ohio State. He also led the OSU baseball team to a national title.
Rein began his football coaching career under Lou Holtz at William & Mary College. 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 that 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 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 1979, Louisiana State University hired Rein away from N.C. State in hopes of restoring its football fortunes. However, Rein never coached another game.
On Jan. 10, 1980, Rein lost his life in a plane accident while on a recruiting trip.
“This show is meant to introduce Bo Rein to today’s football world, but it is also a what-if story,” said Brian Goodwin, the show’s director. “Everyone in college football viewed Bo as the future of coaching.
“By 1979, every school in the country that needed a coach wanted Bo.”
Goodwin and his film crew spent two days in Niles last December, but very little of that footage made the final cut.
Bobby Morrison, who played with Rein at Niles and coached alongside him, does make several appearances. Bo’s brother Paul, his former wife Suzanne Klang and daughter Linea Rein are featured.
Holtz and Bill Cowher (who played for Rein at NCSU) are among the notables who discuss the impact Rein had on their lives. Numerous LSU school officials and notable media members share their views on Rein’s success.
“One thing that struck me was the universal love toward Rein,” Goodwin said. “Everyone we contacted went out of their way to be a part of the show because they felt it was important to introduce the world to this guy who they so admired.”
Holtz describes the “state of shock” he felt in losing someone who was “so influential in so many peoples lives, including mine.” Cowher referred to Rein as “a father figure” who provided him the inspiration to become a coach.
The show concludes with an emotional homecoming for Klang and Linea Rein, who last October attended their first LSU game. The two were introduced in a pregame ceremony honoring Bo. The response from the 100,000 fans was thunderous and lengthy, and it got the best of The Times-Picayune veteran columnist Ron Higgins.
“You’re never supposed to cry in a press box, but it just got to me, it just took me back to that day,” a teary-eyed Higgins said. “There were so many people in that stadium who still knew about Bo, who still loved him.
“They know he would have been great.”
“The Bo You Don’t Know” was originally scheduled to air last April but a lack of Rein footage delayed its production and even threatened its future. However, Goodwin uncovered what he described as “a treasure trove” of Rein-related film while visiting the WRAL studios in Raleigh, N.C. – most of which had never been seen by anyone outside of the Raleigh area.
“This is a story that had to be told, because 35 years later, Bo’s impact still resonates throughout the college football world,” Goodwin said.
Steve Ruman is a correspondent for The Vindicator.