ANN ARBOR -- The Lloyd Carr era at Michigan is ending.
Carr told his team and his staff Sunday he was retiring as the Wolverines' head coach, The Detroit News has learned. Carr will make the official announcement at a 10 a.m. news conference Monday.
It's a decision Carr has contemplated for a while, and it was unrelated to Michigan's 14-3 loss to Ohio State Saturday. He's stepping down after 13 years leading the Wolverines and 28 years overall at the school, opening one of the biggest jobs in college football.
This is a rarity for Michigan -- a vacancy without a clear line of succession. LSU's Les Miles is an obvious top candidate, but there's no guarantee he'll land in Ann Arbor.
Carr, 62, will coach Michigan in its bowl game. He leaves a legacy of success and consistency, highlighted by a share of the 1997 national title. He won five Big Ten championships and guided the Wolverines to a bowl every season, and will retire as the third-winningest coach (121-40) in the school's history, trailing only Bo Schembechler and Fielding H. Yost.
This was one of Carr's toughest seasons, from the shocking loss to Appalachian State to nagging injuries incurred by stars Mike Hart and Chad Henne to the crushing finale against the Buckeyes. That was Carr's sixth loss in seven meetings with Jim Tressel and cost the Wolverines (8-4) the Big Ten title.
Carr had avoided the retirement question for fear of creating a distraction. But it had been speculated since he altered his contract last year, making it possible to collect deferred compensation even if he wasn't the head coach. Then in the spring, Carr made sure his assistants were given two-year contracts so they would have security if he left.
Even before the season, the task of leading such a high-profile program was exacting its toll on Carr. He talked in August about the pressures of the job, and it was clear retirement was a possibility.
"I think one of the most important things a leader can do is know when it's time to let somebody else lead," Carr said three months ago. "That's the right thing to do. Because it's a hard job."
For all of his success, Carr was unable to recapture the dominance of the '97 undefeated team. Tressel also brought a new dynamic to the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, which stirred more scrutiny for Carr.
Still, he'll retire with a winning record against every Big Ten opponent except the Buckeyes (6-7).
"I know I'm gonna miss the game, the players, the coaches and the relationships," Carr said in August. "But when I look at the measure of a program, I look at how it is when you leave. Here we are 17 years after Bo quit and I think anybody who's fair would say this is a great program. I want to be satisfied that when I leave, I know I worked as hard as I could 'til the very last day. If I can do that, this program will be in great shape and the transition will be smooth."
Until then, it's up to athletic director Bill Martin to lead the search for Carr's replacement, and to hope for a smooth transition.
December is an important month for recruiting, so ideally, the next coach would be identified quickly. In the case of Miles, a former Michigan player and assistant coach, it's not certain the timing would work if Miles takes LSU to the national championship game.
Plenty of speculation lies ahead. But finally, speculation about Carr's future as Michigan's coach is over.