I found this story on LinkedIn.com and I enjoyed it. I thought others may as well. It is a bit long, but I think it is a telling insight on how Carr operates within the University community.
Only At Michigan - A Father-Son Story
By Andy Hill
Three years ago my son, Aaron, was a senior at Oakwood Prep in North Hollywood, California. Like parents across the country, my wife and I participated in the panicky and anxiety-ridden rite of spring in helping our precious offspring decide where to go for college. Aaron was interested in majoring in music, so many of the typical music conservatories topped our list of possibilities. When I was Aaron's age, I was a highly recruited basketball player, and I went to UCLA because it was the best basketball program in the country. Choosing a school for its music program was a new experience. Should he go to a small conservatory that stressed only music? When we started the process that seemed the way to go. But would a small college expose Aaron to a broad spectrum of students? That didn't seem likely. In California there are some large, state universities that have fine music schools. But getting far away from home and adjusted to a new culture seems like an integral part of an undergraduate education. At first, Michigan was nothing but a blue blur on the horizon. Yet Michigan seemed to combine all the elements that Aaron wanted, and the day he decided to leave for Ann Arbor was just the beginning of a wonderful story that we believe could only have happened at Michigan.
It is important to note that Aaron's high school was very small, and athletic teams exceedingly mediocre. They did not even field a football team. Aaron's musical prowess was evident from an early age, and he had little interest in athletics beyond some early youth soccer leagues. So when he enrolled at Michigan, I made only one request of him (beyond the typical parental admonishments to study hard and get some sleep) that at first seemed strange to him. I admonished him to go to at least one football game in The Big House to see if he enjoyed being a part of the uniquely communal activity that takes place on Saturday afternoons in autumn. Being a cooperative young man, Aaron humored his old man and agreed to attend a ball game, though he was pretty sure he'd only go to one. Needless to say, going to that one game completely changed Aaron's college experience, and enriched his years at Michigan in truly significant ways.
The Michigan music school is among the nation's finest, and the guidance and training that Aaron has received there has been truly first rate. But the music school is up on North Campus, and is far removed from the heartbeat of Ann Arbor. I suspect there are youngsters who go to the Music school who never really understand the fanaticism that seems to grip much of Ann Arbor on game days. But Aaron trekked to that first game, and was immediately hooked on Michigan football. Now, he checks his concert schedule a year in advance to see if any of his gigs conflict with home games. When he was home last summer, his Internet browser was usually pointed at some Big Ten college's football website, checking out the latest on recruiting, injuries, projected starters, and forty yard dash times. My son was now a total college football nut. Who would have guessed? My wife and I have traveled back to Ann Arbor for a couple of memorable football weekends, and there truly is nothing to rival 110,000 people singing "Hail to the Victors" on a Saturday afternoon. Needless to say, as a former college athlete myself, it was a special joy to be able to share the high of a hard fought victory over Michigan State in the 2000 season with my musical son.
Aaron is now entering his senior year at Michigan, and each year has been filled with memories of great football, challenging classes with remarkable teachers, and incredible music. When people in Los Angeles ask me how our son enjoys college, I always respond by telling them that he loves it so much it seems like his goal is to "suck the Blue" right out of Michigan. So I was not surprised last spring when I got a call from Aaron as he was walking out of the Michigan Union after hearing an inspiring lecture from the head football at Michigan, Lloyd Carr. Now I don't know about you, but I've seen Coach Carr on the sidelines in many games, and his grim and intense glower made me think of him as sort of humorless and distant. But Aaron told me about the Coach's gentle warmth, his inspiring message, and his many quotations from Emerson, Churchill, and Lincoln.hardly the image I had from my distant vantage point on football Saturdays. Aaron was happy to report that he'd even gotten up the courage to ask the coach a question, and had been pleased with the thoughtful answer he had gotten.
How great is that? Michigan has a football coach who is first and foremost an educator. Aaron was quick to note the similarities he saw between Coach Carr and my old college basketball coach, the legendary John Wooden. Over the past few years, Aaron and Coach Wooden have become good friends, and I knew Coach Carr would feel there was no higher compliment in the world than to be compared to John Wooden. So I suggested to Aaron that he e-mail Coach Carr to let him know how he felt. Aaron told me it was the middle of Spring practice, and he was sure Coach Carr was too busy for e-mails from students. I told Aaron he was probably right, but perhaps Coach Carr would like a copy of the book I wrote with Coach Wooden last year called BE QUICK-BUT DON'T HURRY! Finding Success in the Teachings of a Lifetime (Simon & Schuster, 2001). That was certainly worth a shot, so Aaron dashed off an e-mail to the coach, not really expecting a reply. Boy, was he surprised!
Aaron got an immediate response from the "gruff and distant" Coach, suggesting that he enjoyed Aaron's comments and would love to read my book. I immediately went to see Coach Wooden to get a book autographed and sent it off to Aaron. Fortuitously, my wife and I had planned a trip back to Ann Arbor to see Aaron perform in his new role as principal oboe of The Flint Symphony Orchestra. The fact that a college musician had been selected for this prestigious post was quite an honor for Aaron, his oboe teacher Dr. Nancy Ambrose King, and the Michigan Music School. Aaron had beaten out dozens of competitors to win this position, and his proud parents wanted to see him perform in person. Unbeknownst to me, Aaron had e-mailed Coach Carr's office again, and when we landed in Detroit, I was informed that we were expected at Schembechler Hall the next day at 2 o'clock. I could tell from the tone of Aaron's voice that he was beyond thrilled to get a chance to meet The Coach.
As Aaron and I were approaching Schembechler Hall for our meeting, he informed me that he had to leave at 2:30 sharp for his Symphony Band rehearsal. Knowing how busy Coach Carr must be, I thought it wise to let Aaron know in advance that we might not get in to see him until close to the time he had to go. I'd spent many years working as a television executive in Hollywood, where keeping people waiting was the norm. Couldn't he be late just once, I asked? Not a chance, my well-trained and professional musician son replied. Needless to say, I was proud at his resolve, and could only hope he would not be disappointed. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. Coach Carr's assistant Jennifer showed us into his office immediately, and we sat down for a long and delightful chat. He was incredibly curious about Aaron's musical experiences at Michigan, and asked about John Wooden and my UCLA basketball experience with great interest. The time just flew by.
Promptly, at 2:30, Aaron rose and thanked Coach Carr for taking the time to spend with us. Coach Carr's response to Aaron took us both by surprise. "Any chance you would come back with Dr. King, your teacher, and spend some more time with me," he asked. Aaron said he'd check with Dr. King, but he knew that she was a football fan who'd be happy to meet Coach Carr and talk about teaching music. How many universities with top football teams do you think have coaches who'd want to learn about teaching from an oboe professor? Not many would be my guess. But that's what makes Michigan so special. Aaron left, and Coach Carr and I spent another half hour recounting old times. I was more than a little surprised to learn that a young Lloyd Carr was in the stands in Kansas City when John Wooden's UCLA Bruins won their first of ten national titles in 1964. We talked about my book, and some of the leadership qualities that made Coach Wooden the finest coach in college sports history. But when it was time to go, Coach Carr had a final surprise to throw at me. He invited me to come speak to the football team the following morning, which was the conclusion of spring practice. I readily accepted. It was not only an honor to be asked, but I knew that Aaron would be knocked out and want to come along. I wasn't wrong.
When I told Aaron about our nine o'clock appointment the next morning, I'm not sure I've ever seen him so excited. On top of his keen anticipation of meeting the team, he'd also never seen his Dad speak in public, though I've been giving speeches all over the country for the past couple of years. Guess you could say it was a double thrill. I know he had to be thinking, "I sure hope the old man doesn't screw this up." Of course, I wanted to make my son proud, so I felt the pressure too.
The next morning was a typical, chilly morning in April. My wife and I were staying at a local hotel, so I met Aaron in the parking lot at Schembechler. Aaron played at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles and Carnegie Hall in New York when he was still a teenager, but he never seemed nervous in those venues. Yet I could tell walking into the athletic offices, he was running on pure adrenaline. The staff greeted us warmly as we walked in the door, and we saw our "old pal" Coach Carr waiting at the top of the stairs. The team was stuck in a meeting with an NCAA compliances officer (talk about a lousy opening act!), so Coach Carr introduced us to a couple of his assistant coaches and the parents of defensive tackle Grant Bowman. I could tell that Aaron seemed particularly excited to meet offensive coordinator Terry Malone, whom Aaron obviously thinks is a great coach. My son, the oboist.who knows all the coaches and goes to football games an hour early so he can watch them run their drills.
After a brief wait, Coach Carr ushered us both into the large lecture hall where the football team was assembled. Aaron is used to a world of symphony halls and hushed audiences, so the animal-like roar that greeted Coach Carr's entrance sort of startled us both. The Coach made a few brief comments, and then asked Aaron to stand up so he could introduce him to the team. Now I've seen Aaron play solos in front of 3,000 people and look calm and cool, but standing in front of the football team he was clearly flustered. Coach Carr introduced him warmly as a great Michigan student, a stellar musician, and a fine football fan. Aaron responded with a loud, GO BLUE! The team gave him a warm round of applause. I know it was an ovation he'll always remember.
Then it was time for me to address the team.
I tried to keep my comments brief, but I did have a message that I knew the team needed to hear. You see, I am one of only thirteen men in NCAA history to be on three national championship teams, and I have a pretty good perspective on what it takes to go all the way. Though I had been a star in high school and on the freshmen team at UCLA, my role on the varsity had been to back up All-American guard Henry Bibby, now the coach at USC. Being a backup was frustrating, and the experience had left me embittered. I had gone to UCLA to be a star, just like every young man in the room had come to Michigan to make his mark on the field. Not playing seemed tantamount to failure. It wasn't until many years after graduation that I realized that my role was as vital as any starter. Champions are made in practice. For great teams, the games are easy. But it wasn't until Bill Walton introduced me to his second wife by saying that though I hadn't played, the second string was the only team to beat UCLA all year (we went 30-0 that year), that I realized the vital role I had filled in my years at UCLA. I wanted the Michigan players and coaches to really understand the pain and frustration that was felt by every reserve, and to appreciate their efforts that the public would never see, but that were crucial for the team to reach the heights they all hoped to scale. I also cautioned the reserves to never let their disappointment in any way diminish the thrill and honor of running out on the field wearing maize and blue at The Big House with 110,000 screaming fans at their backs. Enjoy it, savor it.for nothing in their lifetime will ever be quite like it.
When I ended my remarks, I suggested that perhaps we could meet again in Pasadena around New Year (though one player pointed out that New Orleans was still the goal). I had been blessed by the opportunity to tell these young men about John Wooden and his ideals. I was grateful to Coach Carr for the chance to address the team, but most appreciative to get to speak to my soul mates on the bench, as I know their pain and feel for their shattered dreams of stardom. But most importantly, I had been given the chance to show my son what I do, after attending countless concerts to watch him perform. I've spoken to dozens of organizations and groups about the things I'd learned from Coach Wooden, but having my son in attendance made this a special memory. I was touched by the ovation from the team. Coach Carr could not have been more complimentary. Yet my favorite memory is Aaron telling me how fantastic he thought I had done, and then asking me if it had been cold in the room, because his knees had been shaking the whole time I was up there. Trust me, it wasn't cold in that room.he was just nervous. How cool is that?
It seems like only a few weeks ago that my wife and I took Aaron back to freshman orientation. They tried to teach us to sing "Hail to the Victors" and say "Go Blue" with enthusiasm. But most of us were too shy, or too inhibited, or too cool, to really let our voices ring out in song or greeting. But as our son has spent such wonderful time "sucking the Blue" out of this wonderful school, my wife and I no longer feel so shy and inhibited. I can't wait to take one final trip to The Big House.sit with my football crazed oboist.watch MY Wolverines.and shout "GO BLUE!" and sing "Hail to the Victors." My thanks to everyone who makes Michigan such a special place to send your child to get the education of a lifetime.