Among Michigan and Ohio State fans, the talk seldom stops. This year's conversation culminates with today's game at Michigan Stadium in...

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DETROIT — Among Michigan and Ohio State fans, the talk seldom stops. This year’s conversation culminates with today’s game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.


Players find themselves immersed in the rivalry when they are on a team, but eventually they leave school.


That leaves coaches to draw most of the spotlight.


And today, the attention rests on coach Lloyd Carr of Michigan (7-3 overall, 5-2 Big Ten Conference). He started fast in the series, winning five of his first six against Ohio State, but has lost three of the past four. Critics say that is because Jim Tressel took over as the Buckeyes’ coach in 2001.


“It’s certainly the greatest game that we play at Michigan, and I don’t think that’s ever going to change — you learn that in a hurry,” said Carr, who is 6-4 against Ohio State and 4-1 in Ann Arbor. “Every coach, every player leaves a legacy.


“Every coach, every player has a record, and that becomes part of who you are, and it’s an important part of who you are in terms of this game that we play.”


Carr saw it from a different side when ex-Ohio State coach John Cooper became defined by his 2-10-1 record against Michigan and eventually lost his job.


There’s little chance of that happening to Carr, whose five Big Ten titles and 1997 national-championship team will be his legacy.


Tressel will be striving to win his second Big Ten title today; the Buckeyes (8-2, 6-1) are tied with Penn State for first place.


Tressel announced his intention to beat Michigan the day he got the job in early 2001 and has maintained the focus, drawing on his years as an assistant to ex-Ohio State coach Earle Bruce.


“I had been here for three years with coach Bruce and he was an Ohio State graduate and a proud Ohio State coach, and working for him here, there was no question that the 11th game was a season unto itself,” Tressel said. “But I don’t know that I ever thought about the record. You just thought about the importance of representing Ohio State in this game. Coach Bruce reminds us often … that your legacy is the Ohio State-Michigan game.”


The mark lingers with the coaches, such as Michigan legend Bo Schembechler, for years after they leave.


“That’s the only record I really know,” said Schembechler, who hasn’t coached an Ohio State-Michigan game since 1989. “I always stayed above water. I won 11, lost nine and tied one. To me it was [important] — especially the ones against Woody [Hayes]. I played for him, I coached with him and I coached against him. Of all the guys I wanted to beat, it was him.”


Looking at the rivalry, many observers break the series into eras, instead of seeing the 24-24-2 record of the last 50 years.


What about Carr, does he know the record for his era?


“I bet he does,” Schembechler said. “I don’t know it, but I bet he does.”


Notes


• Rev. Jerry Falwell cleaned house at Liberty University’s athletic department, firing Flames coach Ken Karcher and two associate athletic directors at the Lynchburg, Va., school while athletic director Thom Park resigned.


“For the past year, we have been very unhappy with the direction of football here,” Falwell said.


Karcher is 21-45 in six seasons at Liberty and 1-9 this season.


• Coach Tim Billings of Southeast Missouri State said he will resign Jan. 31 to pursue other career opportunities. He is 25-42 in six seasons.


• Murray State fired coach Joe Pannunzio, a day after the Racers finished a 2-9 season. He was 30-37 in six seasons.