November 17, 2007

Carr says goodbye after loss to Ohio State

» MORE ON CARR: Players unhappy with news | Michigan begins Miles watch
» MORE FROM OHIO STATE-MICHIGAN: Wells leads Ohio State to Big Ten title | Box score

ANN ARBOR, Mich. Lloyd Carr stalked the Michigan sideline Saturday in a hoodie as gray as this cold, rainy, November day, one that had the feeling of finality.

The embattled coach led the Wolverines in Big Ten play for the last time, bowing to seventh-ranked Ohio State 14-3 at Michigan Stadium in what amounted to a playoff game for the conference championship.

Afterward, the stoic Carr didn't want to talk about his future, or much of anything else, as he barked back at the question.

"There will be a day to discuss that," Carr said with a scowl. "And this isn't it."

That day will be Monday and Carr told the Associated Press Sunday night that he will retire.

Carr wanted Saturday to be about a Rose Bowl berth, a bounce-back BCS opportunity for his team and a chance for his seniors to go out winners against the Buckeyes. Michigan failed on all counts, misfiring on offense as aching quarterback Chad Henne and limping running back Mike Hart couldn't will a win against their superiors from down south. Ohio State outgained the Wolverines 279 to 91 yards in total offense. Running back Chris Wells was a one-man machine for OSU, rushing 39 times for 222 yards and two touchdowns. Jim Tressel became the first Buckeyes coach to beat the Wolverines six times in seven games.

Goodbye Pasadena, Wolverines. Goodbye Ann Arbor, Carr.

The speculation over the coach's future that served as the back-buzz all week continued after The Game.

"We'll have to wait and see what Lloyd says," Michigan athletic director Bill Martin said in a soaking-wet parking lot. "He's gonna retire when Lloyd decides to retire and that's the bottom line."

The Les Miles Watch has already begun here, the former Michigan player and assistant considered by most to be the top candidate to succeed Carr. The fact that Miles is currently head coach of the top-ranked LSU Tigers and appears destined for a slot in the BCS championship game has done little to slow the speculation.

The distractions, denials and deception have only begun.

This day had to have taken on a reflective feel for Carr, who inherited his job on an interim basis in March of 1995 after Gary Moeller resigned in disgrace. Initially, Carr wasn't supposed to have a chance at the permanent position, but he led the Wolverines to an 8-2 record and was subsequently offered a contract that November.

Carr has gone on to post a 121-40 record over 13 seasons with five Big Ten titles. He did something the legendary Bo Schembechler never did win the national championship in 1997. Despite that 12-0 season, Michigan's first No. 1 finish since 1948, some never completely embraced the former defensive coordinator as being worthy.

CARR AT MICHIGAN
Lloyd Carr's coaching record at Michigan:
YearRec.Conf.Bowl (Result) Rank
19959453Alamo, Texas A&M (L, 2022) 17
19968453Outback, Alabama (L, 1417) 20
199712080Rose, Washington St. (W, 2116) 1
199810371Citrus, Arkansas (W, 4531) 12
199910262Orange, Alabama (W, 3534, OT) 5
20009362Citrus, Auburn (W, 3128) 11
20018462Citrus, Tennessee (L, 1745) 20
200210362Outback, Florida (W, 3830) 9
200310371Rose, Southern Cal. (L, 1428) 6
20049371Rose, Texas (L, 3738) 14
20057553Alamo, Nebraska (L, 2832) NR
200611271Rose, Southern Cal. (L, 1832) 8
20078462TBDTBD
Totals12140812312 games: 57 record
Detractors point to Carr's 5-7 record in bowl games, his 1-6 mark against the Buckeyes' Tressel and his 6-7 performance against rival OSU. Questioned this season by the local paper, the Ann Arbor News as having had the game pass him by, Carr's teams have lost four consecutive bowl games and four consecutive games to Ohio State.

That just doesn't fly with the Go Blue boys.

Neither did an embarrassing home-opening loss to second-division Appalachian State this season, followed a week later by a 39-7 home pasting at the hands of Oregon.

Somehow, in the face of unprecedented criticism, Carr then coached his team to eight consecutive victories, leading the Wolverines to the verge of one of the greatest in-season turnarounds in college football history. But without the full availability and health of senior leaders Henne and Hart, Michigan bowed to Wisconsin, then fell flat against the Buckeyes over the past two weeks.

Though no one within the program was saying it publicly Saturday, it seems clear. Now is the time for Carr to go.

What will his legacy be?

The discussion has to start with the 1997 national championship, capped in impressive fashion with a victory over Washington State in the Rose Bowl. Coach of the Year honors followed for Carr. You can't take away the conference championships or the staggering amount of talent Carr amassed and sent on to the NFL.

But most will remember him as the caretaker of a program that seemed to disappoint more than delight, jokes about how you can't spell Lloyd without two "L's" being muttered well beyond the borders of Ohio.

Martin, meanwhile professed nothing but respect for his coach, while trying not to talk about him in the past tense.

"If I were to replace Lloyd, I'd want to clone him," Martin said. "It's not all about wins and losses. But if you look at our winning percentage at Michigan, you'll see that he's improved it in his 13 years.

"If we have to move on, I'm going to make certain that whoever we bring in is somebody who can sustain the record that Lloyd produced."

Comparing Carr's record to Schembechler's is an interesting task. Schembechler's teams won or shared 13 Big Ten crowns and went to 10 Rose Bowls over 20 seasons. But Bo was just 2-8 in Pasadena, 5-12 overall in bowls.

The biggest difference is that Carr never was and never will be the larger-than-life figure that Glenn Edward "Bo" Schembechler became in winning 234 games as a head coach. The fact Schembechler achieved most of those victories (196-48-5 record at Michigan) while battling Woody Hayes only served to further Bo's saint-like status among Michiganders.

Perhaps that was Carr's greatest flaw.

He just wasn't Bo.

Gerry Ahern is a senior editor for Yahoo! Sports. Send Gerry a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.



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