Quite apart from his displeasure over the Wolverines' omission from the national championship game, Brian has a quarrel with the way Lloyd Carr has been portrayed in the mainstream news media, particularly by alumni of fellow Big Ten member institution Northwestern (whose football team, incidentally, has beaten the Maize and Blue three times in the last 41 years).
As quoted by Brian, Florida's Nancy Meyer had this to say:
Absolutely [there would be no national champion]. If I'm Ohio State, I go get a bunch of rings and say, "We won the national championship." That's not right.
Let us leave aside the complete cognitive dissonance of a Florida coach decrying the legitimacy of a national championship game rematch between rival teams who met in the final game of the regular season, in light of the manner in which the Gators won the 1996 national championship (which, or so Coach Meyer claims, "was a lot different because you didn't have the BCS . . . and it was just how it worked out [and] [i]t was a completely different era").
For his part, Coach Carr made very little in the way of a public appeal. Other than a brief entreaty not to hold it against the Maize and Blue that Michigan had played its last regular-season game on November 18, Coach Carr had only this to say in a regional television broadcast:
Despite the clear and obvious distinction in the tenor of the two coaches' comments, Stewart Mandel was critical of both:
I thought Carr's response to Meyer went completely overboard. Never once during the final two weeks of the season did Meyer say anything derogatory about the Wolverines. He never even said his team was better than Carr's. All he said was that Michigan had its shot at Ohio State and that he felt his team had earned the right to get its shot at the Buckeyes. So don't give me this "Carr took the high road" nonsense.
Brian does not believe Mandel's position is reconcilable with the coaches' actual statements and he is not the only Michigan fan who shares this view. A very reasonable commenter put it this way:
Personally, I have no particular problem with coaches campaigning for B.C.S. bowl berths. Since I recognize that there are connections between football and politics, I find no fault with the notion of competing contenders stating their cases before the electorate in a process decided by ballots.
That said, I don't believe there's any real room for disagreement with Brian's point. When casting my most recent BlogPoll ballot, I noted that Florida's coach would thereafter be known as Nancy Meyer here at Dawg Sports because of "his incessant humorless whining" during "a bratty tantrum so infantile that even Tommy Tuberville is embarrassed for him."
It's one thing to state the case for your team, providing the most positive spin in your favor; it is, however, something else altogether to pitch a hissy fit and declare (as Coach Meyer most definitely did) that, if your team doesn't get into the big dance, the national championship is illegitimate and the entire process should be replaced merely to redress the wrong supposedly done you. That is the sort of hubris found in the opening acts of Greek plays whose final acts do not end happily.
While Brian similarly called for a playoff after his team was left out of the title tilt, he didn't tell the Buckeyes to call Balfour and order their national championship rings . . . and, more to the point, Brian is an impassioned fan, from whom such expressions of outrage are expected and accepted. In talking like a booster rather than a coach, Nancy Meyer acted like a Florida fan; in behaving like a coach rather than a booster, Lloyd Carr acted like a Michigan man.
Mandel, who has an embarrassing history of offering insipid observations solely for their shock value, missed this point entirely, but, fortunately, he did not speak for his profession as a whole. While praising Coach Carr for maintaining his dignity, Dan Wetzel observed:
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, . . . the values he always expounds - pride, respect, humility - still can take precedent over all.
Really, none of this should have caught any of us by surprise. Michigan boasts perhaps the most storied tradition in college football (yes, perhaps even more storied than that one), while Florida's is a parvenu program regularly plagued by scandal, just like those of the rest of the Sunshine State Johnny-come-latelies.
The Wolverines had been playing football for over a century before the Gators ever won their first gridiron championship of any kind. Think about that for a minute.
In 1979, Michigan celebrated the 100th anniversary of its first football team . . . and, that same year, Charley Pell guided the Gators to an 0-10-1 season. At the end of the 1989 campaign, the Maize and Blue attended their 14th Rose Bowl . . . and, at the same time, the Orange and Blue hired the head coach who, two years later, would win them their first official S.E.C. title.
When the Wolverines are caught breaking the rules, they take down the banners to which they no longer are entitled. When the Gators are caught breaking the rules, they thumb their noses at propriety and claim, with Clintonian linguistic sleight-of-hand painted on stadium surfaces in the Swamp, that they were "1st in the S.E.C." in seasons in which they were stripped of championships because of cheating.
Likewise, Lloyd Carr is old school, hewn from a block of granite mined from Bo Schembechler in the same way that Gene Stallings was carved out of a chunk of the Bear, whereas Nancy Meyer is the new kid on the block, the ascendant innovator of the new millennium who lit it up at Bowling Green and Utah before learning that, in the big leagues, gimmicky offense is no substitute for rock-ribbed defense. As evidenced by this recent episode, Coach Meyer's Indian name is "Exaggerates to Reporters."
Reasonable college football fans may differ over whether Florida or Michigan was more deserving of a berth in the B.C.S. championship game. It is open to debate whether Coach Meyer's statements were politically shrewd or over the line. At the very least, though, we must admit that Coach Carr's conduct was far more dignified than Coach Meyer's, even if the latter's actions were understandable.
The Lawgiver is right. Stewart Mandel is wrong. Lloyd Carr's decision to make only measured remarks, like Tom Osborne's decision to go for two in the 1984 Orange Bowl, cost him a national championship but earned him a lot of respect.
Coach Carr took the high road. If Mandel missed that, there's a lot more wrong with him than there is with college football and the Sports Illustrated columnist needs to learn that Lloyd Carr is a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.