Sifting through the Sunday press, I was somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of internet ink spilled on the Griese, Hutchinson, WoodsonMott Children's Hospital fundraiser that took place over the weekend. It was, as Brady Hoke would say, TREMENDOUS. The three men, along with their coaches, teammates, friends, and generous alumni raised approximately $2 Million for Mott Children's Hospital over the weekend, nearly doubling their effort from the year before. Honestly, it's hard to be prouder of your alma mater and it's high profile alumni than I was on Sunday Morning. Not only did the fundraiser put two million in the hands of one of the best children's medical centers in the world, it also welcomed a $3 million gift from Al Glick and his Foundation to rename the 7th floor of Mott Children's Hospital after former Michigan Head Football Coach Lloyd Carr. All this on a weekend that Carr was officially named to the College Football Hall of Fame. Talk about a fitting tribute.
Coach Carr has always held a special place in my heart. This isn't because I know the man personally, because I don't, it's because of what he has stood for over the years. To me, he's always stood for integrity, honestly, hard work, compassion, and charity. He was never just a football coach. He was a role model. Someone you aspire to emulate, but know in the back of your head you'll never even come close. But, from what I know of the man, if he learned of that aspiration, he'd pat you on the back and tell you that you'll done a much better job of reaching that goal than you think.
As an undergraduate and alumni my interaction with Carr has been brief. I've seen him speak on numerous occasionsand watched him from afar on many others. To this day, what sticks withme was speaking with him at an alumni event in Chicago many, many years ago. It was towards the end of the evening when my wife and I approached Coach Carr. Though a Notre Dame grad, my wife is a college footballfan, and the prospect of meeting such a renown coach (despite it being the head coach of a bitter rival) intrigued her. So we approached and introduced ourselves.
I nervously introduced myself and my wife, then thanked him for all he'd done for the alumni chapter before related a brief story of how I became a Michigan fan and grad, to which he politely chuckled. Then, despite having an out in the conversation, Carr engaged us further. Asking when my wife had graduated Michigan, she responded that she was, in fact, a Domer. Carr lit up and immediately began talking about the great games at NotreDame he'd been involved with, the history, and how much respect he had for the program. We talked, laughed, and eventually a member of the athletic department came to remind the Coach that he had a flight to catch. We said our good-byes, and as Carr left my wife and I sat there stunned by the wonderful man we had just met. Carr was just that kind of man. You felt like the center of the universe when he talked to you.
My experience was not an uncommon occurence. Carr's commitment to charity and education has left an indellibel impression on just about everyone he's met. It wasn't too long ago that I interviewed Zoltan Mesko about his time at Michigan. One thing that stuck with me was Zoltan's description of Coach Carr:
Z: My favorite game and moment was the Capital One Bowl when we carried Coach Carr off the field. That was an unbelievable moment. A lot of people were criticizing him and we really wanted to win that game for him, to send him out the right way. He's the one that recruited me and got me here and I've tried to mold myself around Coach Carr, especially when you think about the integrity he represents and the man he is. Hopefully, one day I can be a tenth the man he is.
MnB: Have you had a chance to keep up with him since he retired?
Z: I've actually gotten to know him much better and on a much more personal level since his coaching days. Back then he had so much on his mind and his time commitments were just outrageous. But getting back to what a great man he was, I think his salary was something like $800,000 and he donated half of that to Motts Children's Hospital and to the United Way. Even when he was giving speeches, he never kept a dime of it and donated it.
What I like about meeting with him now, now that he's an Associate AD, it's a different experience. In high school you get close to your high school coach. In college it's kind of a semi-business and at the pro level it's really a business. In college you don't get as close to your coach as you do in high school. So now I'm sort of getting back to being as close to Coach Carr as I was with my high school coach, where I can really talk to him about anything.
Carr's just that kind of guy.
And now he's something more. A Hall of Famer, and when you look at his numbers it's easy to see why. Carr compiled a 122-40 record in 13 years as Michigan’s head coach, won or shared five Big Ten Conference titles (1997, 1998, 2000, 2003, and 2004), and captured the 1997 National Championship. And it's not just the wins and losses. It's the players, over a 100 of which returned to Ann Arbor this weekend, most of them recruited by Carr.
Think about this past weekend. Who organized it? Three players from Carr's tenure. When Al Glick donated $3 million to Mott, who did he request the floor be named after? Carr. He's just that kind of guy. Carr's election to the College Football Hall of Fame is an honor that is well deserved. For more reasons than we can name here.