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Just The Sports: Not Big Blue Anymore

Just The Sports

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Not Big Blue Anymore

Matt Hayes, from the Sporting News, seems surprised at the idea that Lloyd Carr, head football coach for the Michigan Wolverines, might be on the hot seat. What is surprising to me is that Hayes is even surprised that Carr is on the hot seat. Yet, he insists on trying to make an argument for why Carr should not be on the hot seat and should, in effect, be given a free pass for what seems like eternity. Unfortunately, he leaves out key facts about Carr's true effect on Michigan football.

So I'm on a radio show in Michigan the other day and the host begins our lovely conversation with this jewel: "Since Lloyd Carr is on the hot seat ... " He then goes off on a tirade — I kid you not, I was throwing a tennis ball to my dog to pass the time — about the lousy state of the Michigan program, thus underscoring the concept of talk radio: He who yells the loudest wins.

Now I hate sports radio hosts as much as anyone, but if you had maybe listened to some of the points the host made and if they were actually valid points, then maybe you wouldn't have rushed home to dash off this foolish article.

Let's review the Carr resume in 11 seasons at Michigan, shall we?
  • One national championship.
  • Five Big Ten titles (ties count, people).
  • 102 wins in 136 career games.
  • No NCAA issues.
  • And, saving the best for last: He somehow has found a way to make TV sideline reporters look even more useless than they are.
You know what? You are exactly correct. That is a very impressive resume so I am going to turn my computer off and go buy a "Lloyd Carr is God" bumper sticker. Oh wait, I have received some valuable information about your precious Lloyd Carr, which may make that resume just a little more accurate.

In Carr's first five years at Michigan, he coached the Wolverines to one national championship, a 3-2 record in bowl games, and a sparkling 4-1 record against Michigan's rival, Ohio State. His teams also averaged 9.8 wins and 2.6 losses a season, helped in large part by the undefeated 1997 season. Certainly not a bad record for a coach in his first five years.

However, in the 2000s when Carr should have been able to parlay his national championship into establishing Michigan as a truly pre-eminent program, he failed to do so. Instead, Michigan football has regressed. Carr's teams have not fared as well in bowl games going 2-4 and they also have failed to have a winning record against Ohio State, also going 2-4. In addition, the teams are only averaging 8.8 wins a season while losing 3.5 games per season, one win less than the first five years of Carr's tenure. I say only because Michigan football is held to a higher standard.

Has Michigan underachieved of late? No question.

It is even worse than just a matter of underachieving. The Michigan football program is eroding. With national powerhouses, such as Michigan and Miami, there is no precipitous fall a person can point to to say that is the point where it all went to hell. Instead, the programs gradually erode as each is currently doing. The very best players go to other universities. They start to struggle with schools they were blowing out a couple years ago. They can't go six seasons without losing less than three games. Whether or not Michigan can turn it around is questionable since Lloyd Carr was never a great head coach.

The reality is Carr has done as much as, or more than, any of the previous all-exalted coaches in Ann Arbor. Since the Associated Press first began naming national champions in 1936, Michigan has won two AP titles: in 1948 under Bennie Oosterbaan — yeah, that Bennie Oosterbaan — and under Carr in 1997.

When a retarded kid scores an IQ of 75 and all his other friends only manage an IQ score of 65, Mensa is not going to come knocking on his door.

I kindly remind Mr. Host that since 2000, three teams (Oklahoma, Ohio State and LSU) have followed five-loss seasons with national titles. Suddenly, there is silence.

And I will kindly remind you that those three teams won national titles in the upswing of their programs with relatively new head coaches, not in their declining years with an average coach. Oklahoma won the national title in Bob Stoops' second year. Ohio State won their championship in Jim Tressel's second year. Last, but not least, LSU won the BCS championship in Nick Saban's fourth season as head coach.


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