MICHIGAN HEAD COACH LLOYD CARR
“It’s always fun in college football to play on New Year’s Day and so the opportunity to play an outstanding Florida team and a program that we have great respect for in a great venue is outstanding. I’ve always appreciated the way the Capital One family has treated us. We’ve had a great time and hopefully we’ll have a great effort tomorrow in this game.”
Q: Because this is your last game, have you addressed the issue of being emotional, winning for your team or going out with a win?
A: “Well I want them to be motivated to win. I think what I’ve tried to tell them is that there is always a group of guys playing their last game at Michigan when we go to a bowl game, and that’s special. And yet, I think it can hurt you as you go into a game if you aren’t concentrating and focused on the game plan, and understand all of the things that go into winning a game. So I’ve tried to approach it from that standpoint. I think really what’s important, is that our team be ready to play. We’ll have some freshman playing, some younger guys, which will be their first time at a bowl game. And you can’t win unless you’ve got a cohesive team effort, and that’s what we’ve tried to address as we’ve tried to prepare for this game.”
Q: Is part of the anticipation of this game seeing if you could get done on the offensive side of the ball that you couldn’t physically at the end of the regular season?
A: “I think what we all understand is in order to win this game, what we have to do is to play better offensively. And that begins up front. We’ve got to do a better job on the running game. I think Mike Hart is healthier that he was at the end of the season. Equally as important in the big picture, is that we have to protect the quarterback. We struggled with protection earlier in the season because we had too many third down and long situations, second down and long situations, because we were not effective running the football. If we can’t be a balanced attack in this game, then we are going to have a hard time. You’ve got to score some points against Florida because they are going to score some.”
Q: Urban Meyer said he called you in 2001 when he had the opportunity to get some advice, do you recall that conversation?
A: “I’ve talked to him several times throughout the years. He called me at that time about a young coach on our staff who was trying to get a job with Urban, and we talked about him. But if you look at the people that Urban has coached for, Earl Bruce and Lou Holtz. He has a great background from the standpoint of the people that he has coached with and the places he has coached. And I think what I respect most, I respect him certainly as a football coach, but I also respect him in the way he runs his football program. He is one of those guys that I think represents the positive things and the integrity of intercollegiate athletics. I like him, and I appreciate him, as a coach and a person.”
Q: What’s the allure of the Heisman Trophy?
A: “Well, it’s a lot more fun to coach one than to play against one. We had Charles Woodson in 1997, and he played great in the bowl game. We were playing for the national championship, and he had one of his great performances. And then in the recent years, we have played against a number of Heisman Trophy winners, and they have all played extremely well. I think that’s a great challenge because following that announcement there is just a tremendous pressure that goes with it from the standpoint of the people that want part of your time. I’d take this time to congratulate Tim Tebow. We tried to recruit him at Michigan. What he has done this season, and the fact that he was able to do what he did as a sophomore is certainly one of the great stories in recent college football history.”
Q: Do you think it changed the way people looked at Charles (Woodson) because of that?
A: “Absolutely. All of the sudden, you are well known, you get a lot of attention. The Heisman Trophy is one of the smallest fraternities in the world. It’s a very exclusive membership.”
Q: In a matter of a couple of days, you are no longer a football coach. When people look back at your career, how do you hope the remember you?
A: “You know, I’ve tried to do the best I could do. I’ve tried to work hard everyday. I’ve tried to place an emphasis on our players on education and finishing their degree. And I’ve tried to influence them in terms that they are ways to handle success and winning and a way to handle the down times, the bad times. I do believe that this game has great value for the people who compete in it. There are lessons to be learned that maybe could be learned other places. But certainly when you have a game with as many people involved, and it takes a team effort to win, then I think it creates incredible learning opportunities. I think in my view that’s what a coach’s job is. And I’ve had a lot of fun and loved every minute of it.”
Q: Could you give us an idea of some of your keys to be successful? And how you are instilling those keys in some of your players?
A: “I think it begins in our game with recruiting the right people, the right coaches, and people who understand the way you want to do things. The way you want to represent your program and treat your players. So I think it begins with the people because if you make too many mistakes in that area, you are going to have a hard time. And then I think it requires hard work, attitude, discipline, and unselfishness. In this game, you have to have people that buy into the team goals because if you don’t, they you’ve got some issues. I think it takes cohesion and I think all the great teams have those things.”
Q: Has Coach Rodriguez been involved in the planning of this game at all?
A: “No. No. I visited with him for a little bit on the day the announcement was made. And he came back a few days later. He had access to our players, our coaches, our practices, but other that that, no.”
Q: Could you look back on the start of your coaching career, 1968 at Nativity High School and the challenges you faced?
A: “Well, when you’re my age, it’s hard to remember that long ago. But, it was great fun. It was great fun because in that, I taught in the inner city, in the Detroit Public School league, and I coached in the Catholic league. And that was an era before a lot of the smaller schools merged, and there were a lot of smaller schools, Nativity was one. And I coached with a great friend of mine who I had gone to high school with. A guy named Woodie Widenhofer, who won four Superbowls with the Steelers, and was a head coach at Missouri and Vanderbilt. And we had a lot of fun. I met a lot of people that I am still friends with today during that year. I coached freshman basketball, I loved that game. I had a freshman basketball team and we went undefeated. And one of those kids, Bob Crawford, his family owned Dot? Shrimp House. They had a chain of them throughout the city, so we ate pretty well. And Bob called me a couple of weeks ago because his father had passed away. He made me an honorary pallbearer. So, that’s one of the great things about this game. The relationships you have.”
Q: Other than after the game, this is your last formal press conference. Do you hear that with joy or with regret?
A: “Well, it’s really no different with the media. If you are in this any length of time, you build some great relationships. And you meet some people that you have great respect for because of the way they do their job and the way they treat you. There are a lot of people in the media that I’ve met that I will miss. And I never would have admitted that until today.”
Q: As this last week has gone, have you found yourself becoming nostalgic at all?
A: “When Coach Shembechler retired back in 1989 right after the Ohio State game, I think what I learned form that experience was that, we ended up losing which we do with too much regularity at the Rose Bowl, but I guess that’s what makes the win so special. But I think the nostalgic part really did not help us. So I’ve tried to keep that part out of it, certainly in my preparation and in our team. You can’t get distracted by that so of thing. Because we know we are going to play a Florida team that is going to be well prepared and be focused. I think if you have anything less than your chances of being successful are diminished.
Q: The offense you are facing is a spread style offense. Your successor will run a spread style offense. Do you think that is the wave of the future?
A: “It’s the era we’re in. It will be interesting to see where we go in college football. The quarterback as a running back has made it much more difficult defensively. So I’ll be watching that.”
FLORIDA HEAD COACH URBAN MEYER
“We’re very honored to be here in Orlando at the Capital One Bowl. I’ve never been to this bowl but I’ve heard great things about it all the way back to when I was a graduate assistant at Ohio State. It’s only an hour-and-a-half from home so travel issues were nonexistent. The more I think about it, this bowl has to be one of the great matchups in college football. It’s two high end academic schools and two very classy programs. Michigan has a first class head coach and first class players and I hope people say the same thing about our program. I think this will be one of the most intriguing matchups of the year. It’s a game we are very motivated to win.”
On Florida’s vaunted offense:
“I get a little upset when I hear people talk about the spread offense or the system. We don’t really have a system. Our system is all about the personnel we have. Last year we adapted it, probably a couple games too late. But from that point forward we’ve been very good on offense, and at times dynamic … I think Tim [Tebow] gets a lot of credit but the personnel around him is dynamic right now. Our fourth receiver is great right now, not just our first or second.”
On what he expects to see on game day:
“I think the first 5-10 minutes of that game is going to be a storm, a storm that we have not experienced in quite a while. After a while, it comes down to execution, blocking, tackling and taking care of your business. But the beginning of the game is going to very emotional and we just have to match Michigan’s emotion and match their intensity."
On the Michigan football program:
“I admire schools that do it the right way. I admire high end academic schools. And that’s what they are. That’s where that respect comes from.”
On the mystique behind the Heisman Trophy:
“I think it’s the symbol of college football, just like the [national championship trophy] crystal ball. To have both of them sitting in my office three feet from each other is kind of neat to have … It’s the award everyone knows. It’s the most prestigious award there is.”
On the state of Florida Gator football:
“We’re not a great program yet. In my mind I count maybe two right now that are great program, they lose a bunch and other guys step right up. We’re certainly nowhere near there. We’re two years away from being right there and battling for SEC championships every year. This year was nowhere near where we needed to be … We had more true freshmen starting then seniors. At the University of Florida that shouldn’t happen.”
On the opportunity to participate in the Capital One Bowl:
“Everyone knows the Capital One Bowl. It’s a January 1 bowl played in prime time. To play 1:00 on New Year’s Day, that’s one of the [top] bowl games of the day. It’s very prestigious and we’ll use that in recruiting … Florida playing Michigan in the Capital One Bowl on New Year’s Day, that’s as big time as you get.”
On using the game as a springboard for the 2008 season:
“Momentum is everything. If you’re not successful at a bowl game you have to eat that thing for six, seven, eight months. We haven’t had to do that so we’re gonna play as hard as we can.”