DETROIT -- Lloyd Carr was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame this week, and now he wants to see a ceremony at Michigan Stadium. Not for him, of course. That's not his style.
"Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson, as winners of the Heisman Trophy, I think they are both deserving of having those jerseys retired," Carr said Wednesday. "I believe that . . . I think it's an issue that is very important to Michigan football."
Carr was quick to say he is not arguing exclusively for Howard and Woodson. Other players deserve serious consideration. But Howard's 21 and Woodson's 2 would be a good place to start.
Michigan has retired a few numbers: 11 (for the three Wistert brothers, who were all All-Americas); 98 (for Tom Harmon, who became synonymous with the number nationally); 87 (for Ron Kramer, one of the school's greatest athletes); 47 (for three-time All-America Bennie Oosterbaan) and 48 (for Gerald Ford, under the Hey, He Became President, Dude bylaw).
But none of them have played football at Michigan in nearly 60 years. Now is the ideal time to retire at least two more numbers. Doing it before a national TV audience during the first night game in Michigan Stadium -- against Notre Dame in September -- would be perfect.
Why is this "very important" for the program, in Carr's eyes? Well, it is bigger than honoring individuals. It's about acknowledging the stretch from 1969, when Bo Schembechler took over, to 2007, when Carr retired -- one of the greatest eras for any program in any American sport. And it's hard to ignore the fact that all seven players who received the honor were white.
"Exactly," said Carr, 65. "And we can say what we want, but that's another reason to me. My own feeling is, from a perception standpoint, if you don't do it, you're gonna be accused of that. My feeling is, we have this tradition, and you can't get to the point where we are, and say 'We're gonna stop it."'
To be clear: I don't think racism has anything to do with the failure to retire numbers. But Woodson and Howard are just as deserving as Kramer or Oosterbaan, so why not honor them?
Michigan has talked about retiring more numbers for years. For a variety of reasons, it hasn't happened. One reason is that Michigan has had so many great players -- where do you begin?
Some would argue for Anthony Carter's iconic 1, but All-Americas Braylon Edwards and Derrick Alexander also wore 1, and as Carr said, "That became a pretty accepted deal that we'll never retire 1. It's taken on its own tradition."
You can argue against Woodson because he didn't graduate, but Woodson left school after three years, led the school to its only national championship since 1948, won the Heisman and has given millions back to C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at Michigan. I think that supersedes his lack of a degree.
Some of Schembechler's best players would argue for Jim Mandich or Dan Dierdorf, all-time greats who had their best years under Bo. It's a good argument, (though Dierdorf, like Woodson, did not graduate, if that matters to you). But you have to start somewhere, and Woodson and Howard seem like the place to start.
Carr, who retired from his associate athletic director position last fall, said he has shared his feelings with Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon and that "I do think that it's moving in the right direction. That's what I believe."
For a long time, Michigan took its football tradition for granted. Maybe that was natural or inevitable. But now is the time to reconnect with the best sustained era in the program's history.