Former Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr still has an ax to grind with Nebraska. To be fair, the issue is not directly with Nebraska, who split a national championship in the 1997 season with Carr’s Wolverines, but with the coaches who voted in the coaches poll at the end of that season.
Michigan completed a perfect season with a victory in the Rose Bowl to win the Associated Press national championship. Meanwhile, Nebraska put together their own undefeated season with a victory over Tennessee in the Orange Bowl to win the coaches poll national championship. The winner of the coaches poll gets to take home to crystal ball trophy as well. In a recent interview, Carr looked back on how he was informed of the split national title.
“I got a phone call the day after Nebraska played Tennessee (in the Orange Bowl), and I had stayed in Los Angeles (after the Rose Bowl) for recruiting, and I got that phone call that said ‘coach you just won the national championship from The Associated Press,’ ” Carr recalled in a television interview, according to MLive.com. “And I knew, based on what we had done (that we would win the AP national title), and I fully expected to win the coaches’ vote.”
Carr, of course, was wrong about that.
“(But) it was explained to me that we had lost and the way the balloting ended up, one coach voted us fourth or two coaches voted us third,” Carr explained. “I didn’t tell the team that, I didn’t want them to dwell on negatives. But I was extremely bothered by it and I still am.”
Having a championship ring likely helps Carr cope with the results of that season, and some may suggest the AP national title is more meaningful than the coaches poll anyway. Still, Carr probably sits at home some days and wonders “What if?” He may want to avoid simulating that match-up on WhatIfSports.com. In ten simulations between the 1997 Michigan and Nebraska teams on a neutral field, Nebraska won six times.
Michigan and Nebraska missed out on being able to settle the score on the field by one season. The Bowl Coalition that had transformed to the Bowl Alliance just after Penn State and Nebraska each ran the table in the 1994 season morphed in to the Bowl Championship Series for the 1998 season. Had the system been put in place one year earlier, the Wolverines and Huskers would have been paired up in a BCS National Championship Game, instead of Michigan being locked in to playing the Pac 10 champion in the Rose Bowl.