Phil Callihan and Clint Derringer discuss the first four seasons of Jim Harbaugh compared with the last four of Lloyd Carr.
The fifth and final installment of the series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State takes us back 20 years, to 1997. The economy was roaring, the world was starting to take an interest in this new thing called the Internet, and Michigan entered the season facing arguably the toughest schedule in the country, while critics snickered not so quietly that the Block M stood for mediocrity.
The good news is that everyone in Maize and Blue heard that criticism, and by the beginning of the season, they were seething with anger, and they were absolutely determined to prove their critics wrong. Lloyd Carr, who proved to the best master motivator in 1997, had just finished reading “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer, a book about a harrowing ascent of Mount Everest in the most dangerous storm in the history of Mount Everest climbs. Carr found out that Lou Kasischke, a member of the climbing party, lived nearby, and he persuaded Kasischke to talk to the Michigan team about the challenges he faced while climbing Everest.
Michigan entered the game with a perfect record, while Ohio State entered with the perfect opportunity for revenge. The last two seasons, Michigan had ruined perfect seasons for the Buckeyes by upsetting Ohio State. Throw in the fact that Ohio State wide receiver David Boston had taken a potshot at Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in the media, and it’s easy to see why there was so much tension in the pre-game build-up.
Midway through the second quarter, the game was locked in a scoreless tie when Michigan quarterback Brian Griese found Woodson on a post-pattern for a 37-yard gain. Two plays later, freshman Anthony Thomas crossed the goal line to give Michigan the lead. By the middle of the third quarter, the Wolverines had extended that lead to 20-0. That’s when things got a little bit nerve-wracking. Boston finally beat Woodson for a touchdown, and then OSU linebacker Jerry Rudzinski forced a fumble from Griese, and all of a sudden, Michigan’s lead was down to 20-14. That’s when every Michigan fans started to sweat during a game in which the temperature was in the low 20s.
Fortunately for Michigan, the defense stood tall at the most critical moments, and a huge hit by Marcus Ray on Boston changed the momentum. Just a few minutes later, Michigan’s defense had held, and Griese took the snap and ran out the clock. The final score was Michigan 20, Ohio State 14. The win gave Michigan the Big Ten championship with an 11-0 record, and Michigan went to the Rose Bowl, where the Wolverines topped Washington State to finish the perfect season and capture the Associated Press National Championship.
In my 54 years, that was the biggest Michigan-Ohio State game of them all, and I doubt I’ll see any victory bigger than that one in my lifetime. That win serves as the bar for every Michigan win over Ohio State.
Thanks to ABC Sports and YouTube posters Stephen Barnett and Dr. Sap. As always, we own nothing, and this blog and video are posted strictly for the enjoyment of readers.
Gaps in the historical record of Michigan Wolverine Sports History
Esteemed writer John U. Bacon has written another book the on college football. Fourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College Football, “…[which] searches for the sport’s old ideals amid the roaring flood of hypocrisy and greed, as he was embedded in four programs- Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, and Northwestern.” It joins Bacon’s other works; Blue Ice, Bo’s Lasting Lessons, and Three and Out, as mandatory reading for Michigan fans.
But what books should be written?
What gaps in the historical record still need to be filled?
I doubt that any of these men would write a no-holds barred account of their experiences but if they ever did it would be some amazing stuff.
Long time coach Fred Jackson has had a front row seat during the most turbulent times in recent Michigan Football history. Begin with that Jackson has been on staff for the four most recent head coaches; Gary Moeller, Lloyd Carr, Rich Rodriguez, and Brady Hoke. Jackson was there when Gary Moeller left the program in disgrace. He won a National Championship with Carr, and the was sole coaching survivor after RichRod brought in his own staff. As the losses and and criticism mounted, not to mention the problems with the NCAA , Jackson survived. When RichRod exited the Wolverine stage, Jackson once again made the transition to a new staff being retained by new Coach Brady Hoke.
A great recruiter and a talented coach, Jackson is in a unique position to compare and contrast coaching regimes.
A polarizing figure for many, Lloyd did what Bo was never able to do- win a National Championship. A great coach by the numbers and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, fans would probably be most interested in his thoughts on close of this career and the subsequent transition to RichRod.
A noted history buff, it would be fun to imagine Lloyd penning chapters in line with his interests:
Appalachian State- My Personal Waterloo
I am not Benedict Arnold- I Didn’t Undermine Anyone
Old Soldiers Don’t Die, They Just Fade Away- My Perceived Lack of Support for Rich Rodriguez
Humorous chapter titles aside, there are many questions that Lloyd could address. Starting with the persistent rumors of health problems, his snarly attitude with some members of media, and feuds with former Wolverine Quarterbacks Jim Harbaugh and Rick Leach. What about his take on the athletic directors he has worked for?
Not to mention the elephant in the room- his behavior and attitude towards his successor Rich Rodriguez.
Did Lloyd really call Rodriguez to gauge his interest in the Michigan job?
What was he thinking when he offered to help his players transfer before Rodriguez arrived on campus?
What really went down when he met with Rodriguez for lunch at the Michigan Union to clear the air?
Rodriguez and his staff have aired their grievances. Lloyd declined to make himself available despite John Bacon’s efforts during the writing of Three and Out.
Someday Lloyd should answer these questions on the record. His answers would make for interesting reading.
It was Winston Churchill who said, “History is written by the victors.” Lloyd is allowing the final word on his career to be told by RichRod- and that is unacceptable.
The highs and lows of Webber’s Wolverine athletic career alone would make for a great book. From high school phenom to a cultural icon as leader of the Fab 5 his ill advised time-out crushed the hopes Wolverine fans. But his involvement in one of the largest NCAA scandals in history elevates his tale to the level of a Greek tragedy.
Many fans would like to see Webber and Fab 5 honored in some way by Michigan. Webber could go a long way towards rehabilitating his image with a thoughtful account of his disagreements with the NCAA and troubles as a reluctant witness during the federal investigation of bookmaker Ed Martin.
With former athletes challenging the NCAA right to profit from their likeness, a book by Webber would be most timely.
Chris could thrust himself back in to spotlight and perhaps help current college athletes in their quest for more compensation from the NCAA.
Michigan Assistant Athletic Director Bruce Madej recently announced his retirement. His career has spanned from Athletic Directors Don Canham to David Brandon, football coaches from Bo to Brady Hoke. His tenure began with stories written on typewriters and published via printing press and ends with reporters tweeting from the their smartphones to a global internet audience.
Madej has help the guide the coverage of virtually every major Michigan sports story for the last quarter century. He is a living encyclopedia of Michigan Wolverine history.
The main difference was Brady’s easy going demeanor and uncanny knack for saying exactly what the Michigan faithful wanted to hear from the new coach.
But after an improbable 11-2 season, capped off by a BCS Sugar Bowl win, one thing is clear- the fort is back.
The steel curtain has fallen, the blockade is in place, choose your metaphor but fresh information is a highly restricted commodity as we enter season 2 of the Hoke era.
In retrospect, the curtain of secrecy first showed itself with the unexpected “big game” road uniforms unveiled against Michigan State last season.
People aware of the game day surprise faced serious consequences if the secret leaked out in advance.
This spring the control of information was further locked down with the banishment of media from practices. Even former players and high school coaches who were still allowed access to practice were given clear instructions reminiscent of the World War II Manhattan project’s directive- “What you see here, what you do here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here.”
After weeks of eager anticipation, the Wolverine faithful were treated to a spring game that showed…well not much. I’m convinced after watching the “game” on tape, that one conclusion is obvious- the Wolverines have great uniforms. After that I’m not so sure.
One thing I am sure of is that this atmosphere of secrecy sure reminds me of the Lloyd Carr era.
Hoke claiming he would like to have a full on competitive spring game for fans but is prevented from doing so because of “numbers” could have been taken verbatim from from a Lloyd Carr press conference. Fans can hold out hope for something more, some day, if numbers allow.
Don’t hold your breath for that to happen. Hoke like Rodriguez and Carr before him, is reluctant to risk injury in a meaningless exhibition.
So what does this mean for fans? Well they’re going to be reading a lot of re-packaging of press conference quotes and breathless recaps of official athletic department video clips.
And don’t expect a lot of insider leaks out of this version of Fort Schembechler. At least for now, the shields are holding.
The recent band-getting-hosed-by-being-left-out-of the 2012 College Football Kick-off game against Alabama seems to be a rare occurrence of unfavorable news leaking out before Athletic Director David Brandon could sprinkle his maize and blue pixie dust on it.
The veil of secrecy is not a bad thing. It served Lloyd Carr and Michigan football well during his tenure. But whether it can be maintained in an era dominated by social media and twitter is another thing altogether. It’s hard to imagine that a coach who doesn’t use email can appreciate the implications of these new information channels.
Is Brady Hoke taking a page out of his old boss’s playbook with the media?
We will have to wait and see if he starts trading verbal jabs with sideline reporters be sure.