Rare obsession

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! Sports

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – He could be consumed with ruminations about the machinations that could still slip his team into the BCS championship game.

Or he could be complaining about how a couple plays a couple months ago shouldn't doom his team from title contention. Or maybe reminding everyone just how difficult it is to go 9-1 (7-0 in the Big Ten) with a true freshman at quarterback and running back.

But when it comes to Lloyd Carr, especially here during Ohio State week at the end of another dominating season, his focus is not on what he can't control just what he can.

Beat the Buckeyes. Go to the Rose Bowl.

That's it, that's all, this week, any week, every week; this year, any year, every year.

If the rest of college football is obsessed with the BCS, politics and national polls, if other coaches are worried about computers, controversy and contract extensions, Carr is the calm in the middle of the storm – a throw back to a time when success was defined by competing with local rivals and not much else.

"I don't think you can get too excited for this game," said Carr.

He sure doesn't sound like a guy who even realizes, let alone cares, that a few mistakes at Notre Dame in the second week of the season are keeping the Wolverines from playing for all the marbles. Oh, the loss grinds him, they all do.

But Carr, 59, runs what is arguably the biggest program in college athletics, yet campaigns to not just stop his sport's rapid growth, but retreat to a simpler, sounder time when winning (not winning it all) was enough.

It is why he opposes just about every recent development to the game.

The BCS? Carr is against it. A playoff system? Against it. A 12-game regular season? Against it. Conference expansion? Against it. Conference championship games? Against it. Weeknight television games? Against it.

This is college football he reminds amateur, student-athletes, right? Why add games? Why make the sport more professional? Why isn't enough ever enough?

His virtually lone voice is mostly drowned out by the white noise of commerce.

"I'm certainly in the minority," he shrugs. "I just look at what I can do with this platform to say things and take stands for what I think are in the best interest of the guys who play the games. It's not always the popular thing to do, but I think it's my responsibility.

"Someway I'm hoping somebody or some group will stand up with the authority to make decisions to turn the tide. I'm not optimistic because there is too much money there. But I'm hopeful."

It may sound disingenuous for the guy who coaches in front of six-figure crowds to criticize over-consumption, but Carr is serious.

If he had his way, seasons would end in time for the players to go home for Thanksgiving. Then there would be finals, more holidays at home and then a warm-weather bowl game as a reward. In Michigan's case, the Rose Bowl, the traditional destination for the Big Ten champion.

It sounds quaint, but Carr doesn't focus on national titles, even though he won a share of one in 1997.

"Every day (Carr says), 'what did you do today to win the Big Ten?'" said Michigan receiver Braylon Edwards. "Every day is for the Big Ten title."

It is probably not a surprise then that Carr has won at least a share of five of them in his 10 years here. Consistency (his .779 winning percentage is fifth best among active coaches) is his calling card. While the rival Buckeyes are immersed in ugly scandals and ugly losses, Michigan is steamrolling along.

If he can't control something, Carr doesn't want to deal with it. And since he can't control the BCS, why worry? You get the sense Carr doesn't even know how the damn thing works. He certainly would prefer it wasn't such a big deal.

"I don't think it matters what I wish. I think you have to deal with reality. I don't think we're ever going to go back to those halcyon days where there were only two or three TV stations, three or four radio stations, a couple of newspapers.

"The technology, the media … people want to know (who is No. 1). All these games on TV"

And with that, he kind of shrugged at the weight of it all – even with his team just a victory from an outright Big Ten title and trip to Pasadena.

This weekend it will ride a bus to play its arch-rival for the 101st time.

"The greatest tradition in college sports," he said.

How, Lloyd Carr wonders, could anyone ask for more than that?

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