Dec. 30, 2006
CARSON, Calif. (AP) -Michigan coach Lloyd Carr cracked up his team by wearing a Halloween mask during a team meeting this season. For years, he's made players use the dictionary outside his office before one-on-one meeetings to look up a meaningful word.
To those close to Carr, they see a man with a sense of humor and an insatiable desire to learn and teach.
For the public, he often hides such traits as if they're trick plays and comes across as a stoic, one-dimensional coach.
"I don't have a personality," Carr joked.
When Carr allowed the media to watch a few sessions of the Wolverines' practice Saturday, reporters squinted into the sun to observe him standing near defensive linemen during a drill.
"I feel like I'm at the zoo," he quipped.
Former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie, who has gotten to know Carr better as a TV analyst after facing him on the field, said there is more to him than people see on the sideline and at news conferences.
"People want him to be flashier or quote-worthy, but when you're at a school like Notre Dame or Michigan, you become guarded and a little paranoid about everything," Davie said. "Once Lloyd lets you get past the bits and pieces he shows the public, you find that he's a great guy that is really interesting.
"But the bottom line in coaching, of course, is winning and losing."
Carr has won a lot during his 12 seasons as coach - and 27 years on the coaching staff - leading the Wolverines to the 1997 national championship and going 16-7 against top-10 teams.
He is 113-35 overall, with a 76.4 winning percentage that trails just five active coaches, and 75-21 in the Big Ten with five conference titles.
"The goal is to get people to perform at their very best, and he's done that," Southern California coach Pete Carroll said. "He's an icon in that conference and at that university. He's maintained the legacy at a fantastic program."
And yet, some will point out Carr has lost four games in a season three times - an unacceptable total at college football's winningest program - the 2005 team's 7-5 record was the worst in two decades, and the Wolverines have lost three consecutive bowls and games against Ohio State.
No matter what his harshest critic wishes, Carr will determine when his coaching career is over - allowing him to travel the word, read more books and spend time being a husband, dad and grandfather.
When the 61-year-old Carr will retire is strictly a guess.
In an interview earlier this week, Carr said the passing of his mentor, Bo Schembechler, did not change his plans about when or how he wants to walk away from his high-profile job.
"I'd be less than honest if I said I haven't given my future any thought," Carr said at the team's hotel. "I love what I'm doing. I love the game. I love the players. As long as I have the passion and the drive that it takes, I'm fine.
"I'm going to know when it's time."
Asked if that time could possibly come this offseason.
Carr laughed and changed the subject.
"He's the only one that knows what his plan is," said former Michigan player Jim Brandstatter, who knows Carr well as the host of his TV show and as a radio analyst. "If he asked me for advice, I would say, `Lloyd, go whenever you want because there's nothing more to prove and once you make your decision, don't agonize over it and go enjoy the rest of your life."'
All-American tackle Jake Long hopes Carr returns for his senior season, when Michigan could begin the year as the top-ranked team, and he counts himself as one of the fortunate ones to see a side of Carr that the coach doesn't let shine for the public.
"When he came into that meeting wearing a mask, we all laughed and had a good time with it," Long said. "When he makes us look up a word before we talk to him, it shows that he cares about us as people not just football players.
"We're lucky to have him as our coach."