Da Coach is Busted

October 14, 2011

The 1985 Chicago Bears were on a roll. On October 13 they'd invaded San Francisco and returned home with a decisive victory over the 49ers. By beating the defending Super Bowl champs that Sunday afternoon, the Bears had run their record to 6-0.

Now it was just past midnight, early Monday morning. On the Tri-State Tollway north of Touhy, a state trooper spotted a Mercedes speeding and weaving. He pulled the car over. Sitting behind the wheel of the Mercedes was Bears' head coach Mike Ditka.

Ditka was taken to a state police station. He was charged with speeding, improper lane usage, and driving under the influence of alcohol. He refused to take a Breathalyzer test, which meant a fourth citation. After surrendering his driver's license and posting $100 bond, "Da Coach" took a cab home.

The incident soon became public. Many fans were angry at the police for arresting Ditka. They clogged phone lines in protest. Secretary of State Jim Edgar finally had to issue a statement defending the cops. Edgar said the lesson to be learned was "no matter who you are, don't drink and drive."

A police spokesman said Ditka had been "very polite" while in custody. When questioned by reporters the next day, the coach said "I have no animosity toward anybody. I'm in complete agreement with our state police. I understand their job, and have great respect for them."

Meanwhile, the Bears announced beer sales would be halted at halftime during next Monday night's game. The 8 p.m. kickoff time was given as the reason--there had been ugly Monday night incidents in other cities, and many teams were trying to cut back alcohol consumption at their games. The Chicago beer ban had been discussed for weeks, and had nothing to do with the coach's troubles.

Ditka's case went to court four months later. He was fined $300 and had his driver's license suspended for six months. By that time the Bears had gone on to a 15-1 regular season, capped by a victory in the Super Bowl.

Mike Ditka remained the Bears' head coach through the end of the 1992 season. As of this writing, the team has not won another Super Bowl.