He maintained a dignity that belied this most undignified of processes. Lloyd Carr's team won't play for the Bowl Championship Series title and won't get another shot at Ohio State after not being able to hold off Florida for a title game bid.
But the Michigan coach kept it real and kept it right throughout a controversy that so often makes everyone look wrong.
Carr doesn't dance for anyone, doesn't beg for anything, doesn't slam someone else. With his team's title hopes slipping away, with the media pleading for him to start pitching his Wolverines to swing voters, he refused to get involved and refused to violate his core beliefs.
Carr clearly is angry with Gators head coach Urban Meyer, who made pro-Florida and anti-Michigan statements in an attempt to influence voters and media coverage, something Carr considers beneath both him and the game.
"I think it's going to be a great controversy … based on some of the comments the Florida coach has made in the last two weeks – campaigning strenuously for a berth in the championship game – and making some statements about Michigan that I think were inappropriate," Carr said Sunday on his television show before the BCS pairings were unveiled.
Meyer was dumbfounded with the criticism because all he did was what 99 percent of his peers would have done. College football isn't a pretty business, and Meyer never hesitated when it came to going to bat for his team, going all out for his kids. He got after those voters the way coaches do on the recruiting trail.
The goal was getting the Gators to Glendale. The goal was achieved. End of story. No apologies.
It may be for the worse (it's difficult to see how it's for the better), but that's the way the game is played these days.
Who knows if Carr could have had the same success for the Wolverines? In the end, the computer formulas declared the Michigan-Florida debate a tie. It was the voters who shifted their allegiance to Florida.
But there are no certainties. As sure as some Michigan fans wish Carr had been more Machiavellian, the thing that hurt the Wolverines the most this season was the bottoming out of the Big Ten, a usually deep and strong conference that reverted to the days of Ohio State, Michigan and a lot of weak sisters.
Florida had the better resume because the SEC had five good teams and the Big Ten didn't. The Gators simply beat more good teams and won the toughest conference in the land. Carr should be upset at Joe Paterno, Joe Tiller and Glen Mason for fielding weak teams.
Regardless, Michigan's case – that its sole loss was at No. 1 Ohio State, that it had a stronger team than the Gators – never had the advocate that Florida did. Carr would rather sit back and let the process play out than win with speeches.
He made just a single "SportsCenter" appearance in which he refused to say much and turned down every other request for comment. That's Lloyd Carr. And not just in talk, but in action.
And so Michigan and its coach go down winners even in this most disappointing of times. This program, Bo Schembechler's program, is supposed to be about just what Carr demonstrated, right or wrong, smart or stupid, hopelessly old school or not.
Meyer did it his way, and perhaps, in this tough world, in this tough game, it was the right way. Perhaps showing his players that you need to kick down the door to opportunity is the best lesson.
Saying Carr was right doesn't automatically mean Meyer was wrong. Meyer acted just as a modern coach would, where seizing every advantage and fighting for every last inch is the only way.
Meyer was a natural politician after capturing the SEC title on Saturday, when his stump speech appealed to every voter emotion imaginable.
There was confidence: "Florida belongs."
There were comparative attacks: "The other team had a shot."
There was overstated extrapolation: "The country wants to see the Southeast Conference champion against a Big Ten champion."
There was a dare to ESPN to cover this in a pro-Florida way: "I hope they list all the statistics, put it all out on the table, here's what it is."
There was potential emotional distress: "We're going to tell a group of young men that just went 12-1 in a most difficult schedule that they don't have a chance to go play for a national championship? I'm going to need help with that one."
It was a speech that James Carville and Karl Rove would have loved. Meyer didn't even seem to understand how it could upset Carr. He couldn't see the issue. He didn't get the problem.
Carr did. Whether you agree with his old-school, bedrock-value approach or not, whether you think he blew it by not sticking up for his team, you have to appreciate that when everything was on the line, he walked the walk.
When a shot at a national title was in the balance, Lloyd Carr, the old Michigan man, proved that even in this hyper-competitive era, even in this senseless system, the values he always expounds – pride, respect, humility – still can take precedent over all.
- Lloyd Carr
- Urban Meyer