Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Abyssinia, Lloyd

We've suspected it was coming for some time, but I must admit my heart sank a little when I read Mgoblog's post yesterday. We may complain about his stubbornness or his play calling, but on the whole, I think that Lloyd is one of the best coaches in college football. I've said before that I think that a college coach has to do five things well to be successful. They have to recruit, teach, motivate, strategize, and publicize the program. Although he is not a great X and O guy, Carr makes up for it by being among the best recruiters in the country, an excellent motivator, a great teacher, and a tremendous ambassador for the program. He has won 75% of his games, has a record against top ten teams that is among the best in history, and brought Michigan its first national championship in 50 years. He's done all this without so much as a hint of a scandal. Although he can be a little bit of a curmudgeon when dealing with the media, he is as classy a coach as you can find. He never runs up the score, and often goes out of his way to commend the opposition for their efforts (remember his Orange Bowl post game interview).

My Lloyd Carr story took place in the spring of 1997. Carr's team was coming off back to back four loss seasons, and there was some suggestions that Carr might be in over his head. At the time I was student teaching at a middle school here in Ann Arbor. The teacher that was coordinating the 8th grade graduation ceremony was a huge basketball fan and she wrote Steve Fisher and asked him to speak at the graduation. He accepted, but later backed out less than two weeks before the ceremony. The teacher then contacted Carr and he agreed to speak. Leading into the graduation, I was not expecting much of a speech. I figured Carr would pop in, say about 2 minutes of typical gym teacher stuff and be on his way. What we got instead was a 20 minute speech that was engaging, eloquent, funny, and spoke to both the adults and the graduating 8th graders. He encouraged the students to find their path and follow it. He used an old Eleanor Roosevelt quote: "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their own dreams." As he signed autographs for students and adults after the speech, it occurred to me that he was more than just your average meat head coach. This was a guy who would be just as comfortable teaching English as coaching football. He was a teacher, not just a coach. His lessons for his players didn't stop at the sidelines. Looking back on it, I think this all-worldly approach is part of the reason why Carr always seemed to be more than a sum of his parts, and why he never got enough credit. To the casual observer, he seemed like a decent but not great coach. But because he was good at all the things most casual observers miss, he always did better than expected.

Good luck to you Lloyd. If there is any justice, we will win on Saturday and give you the send-off you so richly deserve, a big ten title, a winning record against our arch-rivals, a ride on the shoulders of your players, and 110 thousand fans chanting your name, "Thank You Lloyd, Thank You Lloyd, Thank You Lloyd..."