That Carr should
care so much about his players' vocabularies is not surprising. A former high
school teacher of history and English--"You're lucky you didn't have
me," he told reporters, with just the hint of a smile, at the 2004 Rose
Bowl--he got his degree in education at Northern Michigan in 1968. That, as all
true Michigan fans know, is the year Ohio State, led by the brash young Woody
Hayes, crushed the Wolverines 50--14. That catastrophe led to the resignation
of Bump Elliott, who was replaced by Schembechler, who brought Carr on as his
secondary coach in 1980.
Carr ascended to
the head coaching position 15 years later, after an inebriated Gary Moeller was
arrested for assault, battery and disorderly conduct outside a restaurant. Two
years later Lloyd did what Bo never could--he guided Michigan to the national
title, its first in 49 years.
Carr had played
quarterback at Missouri and Northern Michigan, knew a ton about football and
was much more hands-on than your average head coach. He was a terrific
recruiter--as authentic and genuine in the living rooms of schoolboys as he was
churlish and cranky on the sideline. Surely, Wolverines fans speculated, there
were more national titles just around the corner.
There have been
very good seasons since 1997. Five times, including this year, Carr has won at
least 10 games. Four times he has won or shared the Big 10 title. But this is
one of the country's more thankless jobs. When Carr wins big, fans tend to say,
"With the talent he's got, he should win big." When Michigan stumbles,
as it did last year, websites begin demanding his head on a pike. Then there is
the Ohio State issue. Though Carr won five of his first six games against the
Wolverines' bitter rival, he is 1--4 since the Buckeyes hired Jim Tressel in
Many of the
aggrieved fans addressed their concerns to athletic director Bill Martin, who
says he "didn't think for a second" about dumping Carr. "You want
to fire Lloyd," he says, "you gotta fire me."
One common gripe:
By slavishly limiting themselves to hiring head coaches from within the
Michigan family, the program was starving itself of new blood and fresh ideas.
Those complaints faded this season as the Wolverines sailed up the BCS
standings. Now Martin cannot help eavesdropping on the conversations attending
the search for a head coach at Michigan State, where the beleaguered John L.
Smith will coach his final game this Saturday.
hearing," says Martin, "is people saying, 'We need the continuity and
stability you see down the road at Michigan.'"
Lansing, Carr's career record of 113--34 must look very good indeed. With their
solid ground game and suffocating defensive front, the Wolverines could well
pull off the upset in the Horseshoe this Saturday. Even if Carr gets his 114th
win at the expense of the Buckeyes, however, it is his fate to be misunderstood
and underappreciated, the kind of coach of whom most Michigan fans will say,
once he is gone: Who was that masked man? We never got a chance to thank
THE BIG GAME
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