Bill Carr was 33 years old when he was named UF’s athletic director in 1979. During his time leading Gator sports, he helped usher in Title IX and turned the department into a money-maker.
Gator Nation News

Commentary:Saying Goodbye to a Gator Great

All-American center and one-time UF athletic director Bill Carr died last month. Steve Spurrier, his college teammate, said of his friend: ‘He loved his school and everyone around him. We loved him back.’

By Pat Dooley (BSJ ’76) For UF Advancement Published February 20, 2024

When I think of Bill Carr, one word stands out: sturdy.

Even at 78, the Gators’ long-ago athletic director looked sturdy. That’s why it’s so difficult to comprehend how the human body works. How his could shut down, leaving the shell of a once sturdy man behind.

Willie C. is no longer with us — that’s what his teammates called Carr when he played football for the Gators.

“He really was an innovator,” said Jeremy Foley, one of the men who would eventually follow Carr into the sports department captain’s chair. “He came in and changed the way people were thinking.”

Carr was many things: an All-American center for Steve Spurrier, for one (“We never had a bad snap,” Spurrier said); a man who, in his prime, took a two-year break from the NFL to do a stint in the Army, for another.

That was Willie C. His beliefs were strong. Whether it was his Christianity. His country. Or his college team.

He tried coaching once, but soon turned to the administrative side of sports. Back then, most athletic directors were current or former football coaches. Eight of UF’s first 11 ADs had either coached or were coaching — some of them multiple sports.

Ray Graves was one of those coaches. He moved into the athletic director’s role in 1970 and stayed until 1979. He’d done a great job guiding the Gators through the implementation of Title IX, but by the time he left the sports department was in the red. Carr turned it into a money-maker.

Current coach Billy Napier likes to say, “scared money don’t make money.” That’s what Carr thought, too. When he took over, the Gators were going through a coaching change with new coach Charley Pell, who had big ideas. UF needed a little bit of everything: an enclosed south endzone, a better weightroom, the creation of the Gator Club and Gator boosters. Pell gets the credit, but those things don’t happen without a visionary athletic director like Carr.

Pell and Carr also clashed.

The center for Heisman-winning quarterback Steve Spurrier, Bill Carr signed with the New Orleans Saints after college.

As soon as Pell arrived, he fired assistant coach Spurrier — Carr’s college quarterback and roommate. (Think that ticked Spurrier off? He kept the Gainesville Sun headline in his wallet for decades.) But the real source of trouble was Pell wanted to do things his own way and Carr wanted to follow the rules. Pell ignored his AD. And Carr received plenty of criticism for not stopping the egregious actions of the coach.

Pell finally went too far when he was caught spying on opposing teams. In 1984, he was fired. Two years later when Carr resigned, the official stance was it was voluntary (wink, wink.) After that announcement, then-President Marshall Criser declared the sports program “in compliance and fiscally strong.”

Carr went on to serve as athletic director for the University of Houston before returning to Gainesville to assist schools looking for new coaches. It was during this time he had open heart surgery. It floored him. When I visited him in his home, he looked like, well, like someone who just had surgery.

In time, the sturdy man I remembered returned to luncheons and Gainesville Quarterback Club meetings. He’d often ask pointed questions of the guest speakers, whether announcers, coaches, administrators or even me during my weekly scouting reports. I’ll miss those conversations. Sometimes, they went over my head. Always, I came away a lot smarter about what was going on in college football.

Carr remained active in the community right up to the end, when he told Spurrier he was “ready to go to Heaven.” “He was a great Gator and a great Christian,” Spurrier said.

God, if you’re listening, don’t bring up NIL and the transfer portal when Willie C. is around. Nobody cared more about college football’s future than he did.

Rest In Peace, Willie C.

By Pat Dooley (BSJ ’76) For UF Advancement Published February 20, 2024

Sportswriter Pat Dooley (BSJ ’76) covered the Gators for The Gainesville Sun for 33 years until his retirement in 2020. He still shares his love for Gator sports through his podcast, “Another Dooley Noted,” and WRUF radio program, “Dooley’s Back 9.” His Gator Nation News column does not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Florida.