The Lloyd Carr era is officially over.
Some people are probably rejoicing – and judging by the comments on our website and letters to the editor we received last night, maybe “some” should probably be switched to “most.”
But even though he may ultimately be remembered as the guy who couldn’t topple Jim Tressel and Ohio State’s evil empire in the late stages of his career, Carr’s time at Michigan has been anything but unsuccessful.
I could recite his great win-loss record (he’s won more than 75 percent of his games for all you haters), but Carr’s contributions to this program extend much further than what fans see on the field 12 Saturdays a year.
Carr was a rarity in college football – a coach who aimed to educate his players both on and off the gridiron.
As Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press wrote: “Unlike a lot of coaches, he actually reads books with letters other than ‘X’ and ‘O.’ “
And he made his players read those books, too. In fact, Carr wouldn’t allow players in his office until they would recite a word from the dictionary to him.
Athletic Bill Martin raved endlessly of Carr’s intangibles following Saturday’s game.
“He is so intent on the graduation rates, on these kids’ academics,” Martin said. “And he always, always brings that up with them at every meeting.”
Carr was and will continue to be a pioneer for area charities, like C.S. Mott’s Children’s Hospital. Fundraising events he’s backed have raised tens of millions of dollars for different groups.
Ever go to Carr’s Wash for Kids? Not only did it raise money for those who needed it, but it put a positive light on the football team in the community. Could the next coach be another great face for the program? Sure. But he’ll have a hell of an act to follow when you consider everything Carr has done.
“He does so much for our hospitals in terms of fundraising, making his time available, that nobody even knows about,” Martin said. “He’ll get a note from somebody who has a sick second cousin in the hospital. Lloyd goes and sees that person in the hospital.”
Even though Carr will have more free time to do these things, it won’t be associated with the Michigan football program as much.
Carr will likely stay with the program is some form, whether it’s as an associate athletic director or a consultant. But the new face of the program will be whoever takes over as head coach.
People underestimate what Carr did for the perception of this program. He took over for a coach who was forced to resign after a drunken disorderly conduct incident. He took the football program’s new post right after the Fab Five gave Michigan sports a new look. That new look translated to a sketchy reputation as the years passed, but Carr’s programs never had a hint of controversy.
Recruiting violations? Ha. That was a laughable thought with Carr at the helm.
It may sound like I’m praising something that should be easy, but running a clean program for 13 years is quite an accomplishment in itself considering college football’s current landscape.
So before everyone starts planning the Welcome Les Miles Rally for a few months from now, it’s only fair to give Carr the credit he deserves.
He’s won five Big Ten Championships in 13 seasons. He’s reminded Michigan fans what it’s like to be a National Championship contender. And he’s done it all with class.
So before everyone rejoices because next year’s team will run a few less zone left plays, make sure you give respect where respect is due.
And it’s definitely due for the well-spoken, articulate coach who has the respect of nearly everyone whose respect is worth having within the coaching fraternity.
– Bell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.