It began the same way team meetings normally do after losses.
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr walked into the meeting yesterday afternoon, and instead of greeting their coach the way they do after wins – with clapping and cheering – the Wolverines were silent.
But that’s not what Carr wanted.
“Did somebody die or something?” Carr asked, according to those in the meeting, which was closed to the media. “I’m going to try this again. I want you guys to act like you have a heartbeat.”
Carr exited the room, re-entering moments later to a standing ovation. That’s when he informed his players that he wouldn’t return next season, an announcement that, while expected, still provoked strong emotions in many players.
Some had to fight off tears as the man they came to Michigan to play for told them he would be leaving.
“It was emotional,” senior safety Jamar Adams said. “My eyes welled up, and a couple other guys’ eyes welled up. It’s a family, and . the leader of your family is about to leave. That’s hard to deal with.”
Carr, usually stoic and unfazed, wasn’t able to completely hold back his emotions either.
“He got a little choked up, but he stayed focused and strong for the guys,” senior linebacker Chris Graham said. “He’s a strong man, and I’m glad to have had him (as my coach).”
Graham indicated a main reason why he came to Michigan was Carr’s presence, and other players echoed those sentiments.
“It’s kind of difficult, because when I came here, I admired coach Carr,” wide receiver Greg Mathews said. “He was somebody I always looked up to, and he’s one of the reasons I came to this school, so it’s kind of difficult to deal with right now.”
The announcement didn’t catch most players off-guard. Many heard on Saturday night that Carr would retire at a press conference on Monday morning and have been answering questions from their friends and relatives for weeks.
But Carr stepping down wasn’t something the older players even considered when they first stepped onto campus.
“It’s something I didn’t think I’d have to go through, coming in as a freshman,” junior cornerback Morgan Trent said. “The talk really wasn’t happening when I was a freshman.”
Players waited outside Carr’s office to talk to him after the announcement. Right tackle Steve Schilling said that some gave Carr a hug and said goodbye to the coach, who has been at Michigan for 28 years.
“I feel like he did what was right for him, and it’s sad not to be working with him again,” running backs coach Fred Jackson said. “He’s the best person I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve been with him for 16 years. So that’s how I look at it. He’s a great person, and Michigan will never replace him in my mind.”
Athletic Director Bill Martin will likely begin his coaching search immediately, but most players said they don’t have a clue who would take Carr’s position. Some acknowledged that they had heard rumors about current Louisiana State coach and former Michigan assistant coach Les Miles returning to Ann Arbor.
Carr didn’t tell the players why he was retiring – just that it was time for him to go. Most said he didn’t need to give them a reason.
“I don’t know if the pressure of the job wore him down, but I know it’s a very stressful job being the head coach at Michigan,” Adams said.
Said wide receiver Adrian Arrington: “He obviously doesn’t want to coach anymore. He’s had a great career, an excellent career. People retire.”
Adams said that although he wished Carr had decided to stay, he was glad the coach was doing what was best for him.
“I hope he goes and chills out somewhere,” Adams said. “Spends some of that money he’s got. Just have fun. I want him to have as much fun as he possibly can.”