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Published: Monday, 1/9/2006

UM's Carr must change with times

Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr sees the handwriting on the locker room grease board.

Carr recently completed his worst season in Ann Arbor, becoming the first UM coach to lose five games since 1984.

He sees that college football as he knows it has changed, that just because something worked in the past doesn't mean it will be successful in the future.

Carr sees how some of his Big Ten coaching contemporaries have changed, how Penn State's ageless Joe Paterno changed his offense and chased away his critics, and how strait-laced Ohio State coach Jim Tressel learned to trust multidimensional quarterback Troy Smith and diversified the Buckeyes' conservative attack.

Carr sees how Texas coach Mack Brown won his first national championship - and the Longhorns' first national title in 35 years - when he broke from tradition and handed the offense over to quarterback Vince Young.

And Carr sees how Miami coach Larry Coker fired four assistants in the wake of the Hurricanes' embarrassing Peach Bowl loss.

Carr sees all of these things, and the evidence working against him is glaring.

He must also change with the times, and it doesn't matter if he rearranges his coaching staff, or rethinks his coaching philosophy. What's important is that he act on the belief that change is necessary.

Following Michigan's 32-28 loss to Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl, assuring a 7-5 season, Carr said, "I'm extremely proud of our football team, the way they played and competed the entire year. I don't think you ever disregard the records. It's an important standard, and we're all disappointed in that. But I'm not disappointed in our players. They fought to the last minute of the last game."

Commendable words, indeed.

At Central Michigan, perhaps.

But unacceptable words from Michigan's coach.

Of course the Wolverines played hard. That's a given.

But they're also expected to win bowl games. At last check, the Wolverines have lost three straight bowl games.

UM also has lost two in a row to Ohio State and four of the last five to the Buckeyes, and two straight to Notre Dame.

Overall, UM is 7-7 in its last 14 games.

You're never too old to change. Paterno is 79. He changed. Carr's only 60. He can change too.

No one's suggesting that Carr begin listening to music favored by his players and become a fan of rapper 50 Cent, as Brown did, or make a drastic switch to the run-and-shoot.

If Carr revamps his coaching staff and plays musical chairs with his coordinators, he will join an increasing number of head coaches who, when push came to shove, kicked loyalty to the curb.

But it has to be more than a superficial gesture. Initiating change for the sake of pacifying fans, alumni and the media, if not genuine on Carr's part, would be next to worthless.

He must be totally on board with his assistants, even if their philosophy differs from his. He has to be willing to go all the way, to give his coordinators the latitude to construct an offense or defense to their liking.

Carr is the key. His ability to adapt and accept change is critical.

If the transition is successful, and UM experiences a reversal of fortune, Carr will rightfully receive all the credit.

The way he's now receiving all the blame.



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