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Monday, November 19, 2007
Startling start to Michigan's season ends with Carr's retirement

Associated Press

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Lloyd Carr alternately choked up and chuckled for nearly 40 minutes Monday, as he announced his 13th season as Michigan football coach will be his last.

"I wanted to be able to walk out of here knowing that to the very last minute, I did my job to the best of my ability," Carr said with watery eyes. "And I know I'll be able to do that."

The best of Carr's ability brought Michigan a national title and five Big Ten championships. It also included an unsightly loss to Appalachian State to open this season and a fourth consecutive defeat and sixth in seven years to Jim Tressel and Ohio State to close it.

Many of those memories were very close to the surface at Monday's news conference during which the public that rarely got to see his true personality also learned what had happened behind closed doors the previous day when Carr broke the news to his players and staff.

"I cried more tears than I knew I had," said Carr, who spent 28 seasons on the Michigan coaching staff. "And I've never laughed so hard in my life because there were so many memories."

Carr will coach the Wolverines in their bowl game, likely to be either the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio or the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla. Following the bowl game he will become an associate athletic director.

The retirement announcement surprised no one.

Last winter, Carr had his contract reworked to pave the way for this to be his last season and later made sure the school gave his assistants unprecedented two-year deals.

Lloyd Carr
Now that Lloyd Carr, above, has stepped aside, LSU's Les Miles appears to be the heavy favorite to become Michigan's next coach.

The only unknown was when the 62-year-old Carr would choose to step away from the sideline: Monday, as he did, or after the bowl game.

"My timing is based on one thing, what is best for Michigan football," he said. "There are no other motives.

"To do it after a bowl game would have been absolutely ridiculous."

The departure opens a job at the nation's winningest football program and the timing of it might make things uncomfortable for top-ranked LSU and coach Les Miles.

Miles seems to be at the top of the list in Ann Arbor. He played for Bo Schembechler at Michigan, where he met his wife and later became an assistant under Schembechler.

On Monday in Baton Rouge, La., though, Miles insisted he's not looking for a job and said Michigan has not called him.

"I love LSU," he said.

Even though Miles appears in a great situation leading the Tigers in a talent-rich area, the school was concerned enough about him bolting for Michigan that it put a specific clause in his contract to make it an expensive move.

In the "termination by coach" section of his deal, Michigan is the only other school mentioned. It states that Miles will not seek or accept employment as Michigan's coach. If Miles does leave LSU to coach the Wolverines, he must pay LSU $1.25 million.

Michigan athletic director Bill Martin said he has about 20 candidates in mind and would start his search Monday afternoon. Martin plans to form a search committee and to ask for Carr's input.

Gerry DiNardo was in a similar situation when he was coaching at LSU and his alma mater contacted him about its opening a decade ago.

"I told Notre Dame that I didn't want to talk until the season was over, but each coach is different in how they handle that," said DiNardo, who was in Ann Arbor working for the Big Ten Network. "My advice to Les Miles would be to learn from the Nick Saban saga and to either tell the truth or don't say anything."

Saban said he had no interest in the Alabama job when it became vacant nearly a year ago while he was coaching the Miami Dolphins, then declined comment the next month. After five weeks of denials and two days of deliberation, Saban bolted to coach the Crimson Tide.

Other candidates to replace Carr might include Kirk Ferentz of Iowa, where Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman was before coming to Ann Arbor, and major college coaches with Midwest ties such as Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, a native of Youngstown, Ohio.

An Iowa spokesman said Monday that Ferentz would not comment, and Stoops dismissed the thought after the Sooners' practice Monday night.

"That's so foolish," Stoops said. "I've got nothing to do with that."

Michigan athletic director Bill Martin said he has about 20 candidates in mind and would start his search Monday afternoon. Martin plans to form a search committee and to ask for Carr's input.

"I want to get this done as soon as I can," Martin said.

Among other things, Moncay, Carr joked about speculation that coaching wore him out.

"I'm not tired," he said with a smile. "I may look tired, but I still have a great passion for the game, for the players and for the competition. But I also know that there are some things that I don't have anymore, and so it's time."

Carr had a 121-40 record for a .752 winning percentage, seventh among active coaches behind Florida State's Bobby Bowden and ahead of South Carolina's Steve Spurrier.

He is one of eight coaches in Big Ten history with at least five championships and he never finished lower than third in the conference.

Michigan has lost its last four bowl games, including three Rose Bowls, the longest postseason skid since Schembechler dropped seven straight in the 1970s.

"We haven't won a bowl game around here in a while and that would be a great way to send coach Carr off," receiver Greg Mathews said.

The Wolverines won four straight bowls for the first time in school history under Carr, starting with the win over Ryan Leaf-led Washington State in the 1998 Rose Bowl that gave the school its first national championship in 49 years.

"His legacy in football is unbelievable," Michigan offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said. "And he did it with integrity. There has never been an NCAA person come here to question anything about football."