'They were a team': Laurie Carr, wife of ex-Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr, dies at 70

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Laurie Carr, the shy but ebullient wife of retired Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr, died Tuesday morning after a long fight with cancer, according to the Carr family.

She was 70.

Laurie Carr, wife of former University of Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr, died Tuesday morning after a long battle with cancer. She was 70.

The two married in 1994 a year before Lloyd Carr was elevated from defensive coordinator to interim head coach and then, later during the 1995 season, head coach. It was the second marriage for both. After Carr’s retirement in 2007, the couple remained in Ann Arbor. In 2019, they moved to South Carolina, and during their brief time there, Laurie was diagnosed with cancer. The couple returned to Ann Arbor last year so she could receive treatment at the University of Michigan Hospital.

“She was such a nice, quiet complement to Lloyd,” said Jon Jansen, a two-time captain under Carr and friend of the couple.

“The great thing about Lloyd and Laurie is that even though Lloyd was the head coach at Michigan football, all of that we know goes into it, we always knew it was Lloyd and Laurie. It was never, ‘Oh, I had no idea Coach was married,’ or ‘I had no idea he had a life.’ That’s the thing that is special about Lloyd is that he always understood that there’s football, but there’s also life outside of football. And Laurie, whether guys understood it or not, Laurie, whether it was through Lloyd or through herself directly, was able to get that message to players that, ‘You know what, when you’re at Michigan football, there’s a sacrifice that families make.’ She made that sacrifice as much or as well and gracefully as anybody can make.”

Laurie Carr tried to avoid the spotlight that was squarely on her husband during his 13 years as Michigan head coach, but she was always immensely supportive of him. There were occasions after an event or news conference when she would playfully tug at his sleeve while he was chit-chatting with a reporter, feign annoyance with a funny roll of her eyes, while trying to get him to move along.  

“She knew for Lloyd to be successful, for him to be happy and fulfilled that there was the tugging at the shirt, like, ‘You could stand here and talk about football, you could stand here all day and talk about your players, but you need to leave right now,’” Jansen said. “And it wasn’t he needed to leave because she needed him, she knew he needed to leave for himself. It takes somebody that knows you so well and loves you so much, they’re selfless to give the time that they have with you up, but then also to know, you need time away from your profession, away from your passions to regenerate, rejuvenate. She just had that perfect ability to know when that time was.”

Former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr stands with his wife, Laurie, and athletic director David Brandon as he is honored with a plaque during a brief pregame ceremony at midfield in 2011.

At Lloyd Carr’s retirement news conference in November, 2007, it was pointed out to Laurie that they had been married 13 years and he had been coach 13 years — which was easier?

“Now that’s a good question,” Laurie said, laughing.

She described her emotions that day as “happy” and happy for him. While she was eager to enjoy more time with him and travel and visit family, she never influenced his decision.

“No matter what I really wanted him to do,” she said at the time, “I tried to stay out of it. Honestly, if he said, ‘I’m coming back next year,’ that would be up to him. I made it through 13, I could make it through 14 or whatever.”

Laurie was delighted to be with her husband more and said they’d be able to do the “thousands” of things they always said they wished they could do.

“It’s hard to separate the two of them. That’s who they were — Lloyd and Laurie,” Jansen said. “It wasn’t just Lloyd. You knew they were a team. When I think about Lloyd and Laurie, they were a great example to all of us what it meant to love, what it meant to sacrifice, what it meant to have a true partner in life. We saw that so much from Laurie throughout the course of coach’s coaching career, but when Lloyd stepped away from coaching, you saw it from him as well.”

The family asks that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the ChadTough Defeat DIPG Foundation (www.chadtough.org) or Arbor Hospice (www.arborhospice.org).

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis