A Familiar Name At Michigan?

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - November 28, 2007
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As the story has been told over the years, legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden was approached by a booster following his team’s national title victory in 1975 who congratulated the coach for making up for the letdown from the previous season.

Although Wooden had decided to retire prior to the start of the NCAA tournament, the conversation confirmed his decision that there is more to life than unrealistic expectations and constant scrutiny.

Though Lloyd Carr trails Wooden by nine titles, it seems that the same pressures have hastened the end of another bright coaching career.

In his 13 years leading the University of Michigan football team, Carr won 121 games, five conference and one national title. His 77.9 winning percentage in conference play is third all time among Big 10 coaches who have coached for at least 10 years, and he finished 17-9 against top 10 competition. Carr will become an assistant athletic director following his team’s to-be-announced bowl game.

Michigan athletic director Bill Martin, a Carr supporter, said equaling his winning percentage (.752) would be the easy part of the job search. The hardest will be finding someone with the same character traits of the former high school history teacher, who required his players to look up an unknown word, which they would discuss prior to talking football in his office. In his 28 season in Ann Arbor, Carr has endeared himself to the university and community with his charitable work through the Coach Carr Cancer Fund, which has raised millions for research and treatment. His annual Carr’s Wash for Kids raised $170,000 for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in June. Another $117,000 was raised for the hospital during a radio fundraiser that featured Carr, tailback Mike Hart and former QB Brian Griese.

Even before the two season-opening losses, vocal fans had called for a change, believing the program had not won enough and that Carr’s offensive play-calling was too conservative. Such calls to action are heard throughout the nation on a yearly basis, but ignore the obvious fact that change does not guarantee further success. Though no program has won as many games as Michigan, the school is not immune to the factors that have befallen Notre Dame, Florida State, Miami and Nebraska.

The head coaching job at Michigan is one of the premier posts in college football. While it may never pay the most - even with Martin saying the pay scale could double from Carr’s $1.6 million annual deal - the job boasts one of the most sought-after benefits of any employment opportunity: stability. With the exception of Gary Moeller, who was canned after five seasons following a drunken fight in a restaurant, every Michigan coach since 1937 has served at least a decade. The coach before that, Harry Kipke, stayed on board for nine years.

With a nice payday, good facilities, a massive fan base and historical prestige with which only one other school can compete, the list of potential candidates is a long one. Martin said he has some 20 names rattling around in his head, and that a Michigan pedigree is not a necessity. But a clean past is. Martin will hire a private security firm to do background checks on possible employees.

List of candidates: Les Miles - The LSU coach is a former Wolverine player and assistant coach. Michigan will have to wait six weeks to talk to him.

Brian Kelley - Cincinnati coach won two national titles at Grand Valley State before spending three seasons at Central Michigan.

Jeff Tedford - Highly regarded coach who could be pried away from the crumbling facilities at Cal.

Mike Trgovac - Carolina Panther defensive coordinator was a player and coach at Michigan. No head coaching experience.

Ron English and Mike DeBord - Well-thought-of assistants, but problems on both sides of the ball over the last two years could hurt their chances as well as a call to look outside of the program.

Bobby Petrino - Not likely he would leave the NFL after only one season.

Jon Gruden - Talented offensive mind but you wonder if he’s really suited to the college game.

Bill Cowher - Tough guy in the Bo Schembechler mode. Offense may be as boring as Carr’s.

Kirk Ferentz - Troubled players and a 3-5 record against Iowa State limits chances.

Greg Schiano - Seems set at Rutgers. May be waiting for Penn State opening.

Bret Bielema - Young coach appears to be a fixture at Wisconsin. Has only two seasons head coaching experience.

Chris Peterson - Dazzling offense and the most fundamentally sound team in NCAA. West Coast guy may be looking at the UCLA job.

June Jones - Free agent at end of the season with exciting offensive style. Current employer may not be able to afford pay raise.

Norm Chow - Quarterback guru with loads of college experience. At 61 may be too old as Michigan looks long term.

One More Thought

While it was obvious that the 3,000-plus fans in the Stan Sheriff Center Nov. 16 appreciated the video updates of the UH-Nevada football game, the improper handling of the video feed disrespected the effort being put forward on the court. With the Rainbows leading Illinois and Bobby Nash on the free throw line, fans roared to the action on the screen, completely unaware that Nash was trying to hold off the charging Illini. Fortunately, Nash hit both, but the thunderous noise continued into Illinois’ possession and was still going strong as the Rainbows were trying to run their offensive set.

Yes, the 45-yard field goal by Dan Kelly helped preserve a magical season and everybody wanted to see it, but it shouldn’t have come at the expense of the team that was on the floor trying to win. The team deserve an apology.

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