ADV28

Updated: August 27, 2003, 2:45 PM ET

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- With a wall of glass overlooking practice fields in an office almost big enough to hold a scrimmage, Lloyd Carr is at ease sharing his thoughts on various topics.

Carr talks easily about the strengths and weaknesses of the fourth-ranked Wolverines, his mentor Bo Schembechler and his favorite books from the past year.

But when the topic of Carr's 100th game as Michigan's head coach -- on Aug. 30 at home against Central Michigan -- comes up, he pauses.

"Well, it's hard to explain," Carr says after a period of silence. "To be the head coach at Michigan is the best opportunity anybody could have anywhere in athletics, at any level. It's just one of those places. It's special."

Carr knows he is judged by how much he wins because the Wolverines have won more games than any other college football team.

But as Carr prepares for his ninth season as head coach, and 24th on Michigan's staff, he insists he is genuinely interested in developing more than just football players.

"I've always felt that I'm an educator first and foremost," Carr says. "I'm trying to teach a lot more things than football Xs and Os. I'm trying to help these young men develop as people, to make good decisions and to understand that they are responsible for their actions.

"And I want them to know that I'll always care about them, even after they leave Ann Arbor."

Jeff Backus knows.

"Besides my father and my relatives, there's not a man that I respect more than him," says Backus, who helped Carr win a national championship in 1997.

Now a Detroit Lions offensive tackle, Backus had dinner twice this summer in Florida with his former college coach.

"It was great because it was like we were old friends. We were in the car for hours just talking about life and our families. We barely talked about football," Backus says. "He has good principles and morals and he holds himself accountable. He really passes that mind-set on to his players."

Carr also holds his players accountable.

Star defensive back Marlin Jackson was suspended for the opener after pleading guilty to aggravated assault earlier this month in a plea agreement.

The Big Ten's preseason defensive player of the year was accused of striking a man in the right eye with a bottle. Jackson admitted he punched the man but said he never struck him with a bottle.

Carr had said that if it was proven that Jackson used a bottle in the altercation he would be kicked off the team.

"I don't care what you do in these situations as a coach, you're going to be criticized," Carr says. "So, I've made up my mind that I'm going to be fair to the kids that I coach. But it's important that we have standards and have young men in this program that are going to conduct themselves in a way that makes people proud of them and our program."

While some storied college football programs have failed to maintain excellence over the past decade, under Carr, Michigan has won an average of 9.5 games overall and has lost fewer than two Big Ten games a year.

Carr (76-23, 49-15 Big Ten) ranks fifth among active Division I-A coaches with a 76.7 winning percentage.

Michigan's preseason ranking this year marked its 78th straight poll appearance, a streak that leads the nation.

Since winning the 1997 AP national championship, the Wolverines have won four New Year's Day bowls, 47 games and shared two Big Ten titles under Carr.

But they haven't been back to the Rose Bowl. Seeing Michigan be anything less than great is not good enough for some fans, who find reasons to criticize Carr after the infrequent losses.

"Just look around at some of the big-time programs in the country that are not so great anymore. It's tougher today than ever before to maintain the steady excellence that Michigan has. Nobody is going to be a national champion every year," said former Wolverine Jim Brandstatter, a Michigan radio analyst and host of Carr's television show. "Ask any program in the country if it would like to win at least eight games and contend for a conference championship every year? Few wouldn't want to be where Michigan is."

And Carr, 58, couldn't imagine being anywhere else any time soon. He says he has turned down opportunities to leave, declining to reveal specifics.

"There's always two issues: health and desire. As long as I have both, I would love to be the coach here," he says. "But there are other things in life and when I'm through coaching, I'd like to have time to do some of those things."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index