ACC Football: It’s official: Fedora to UNC
By Aaron Beard
CHAPEL HILL ó Larry Fedora sounded undeterred taking over a North Carolina program still wounded by an NCAA investigation and facing sanctions.
If anything, the Tar Heelsí new coach welcomes the challenge.
ěTo be honest with you, it didnít scare me,î Fedora said Friday at his introductory news conference. ěIíve got a saying with the football team that adversity, when it strikes, itís going to happen and it brings out the best in all of us. But when it does, you look it in the eye, you grab it by the throat and you choke it. … Thatís what weíre going to do with whatever adversity comes up, now or in the future.î
Earlier Friday, the schoolís trustees approved a seven-year contract worth more than $1.7 million annually for the Southern Mississippi coach to become the permanent replacement for Butch Davis. The deal includes several bonuses, including for winning a division or conference championship, reaching a BCS game and high graduation rates.
Fedora, who planned to meet with his new team after the news conference, will receive annual retention bonuses ranging from $100,000 to $350,000 beginning in 2015, as well as a one-time payment of $400,000 in the first year and an annual expense allowance of $30,000.
With menís basketball coach Roy Williams among the hundreds of fans and reporters in attendance, Fedora invoked Gen. George Patton in promising he would lead a program that would ěalways be attackingî with a no-huddle offense that creates explosive plays and plenty of buzz in Kenan Stadium.
ěYouíd better buckle your seat belts and you better hold on,î Fedora said, ěbecause itís going to be a wild ride.î
The former offensive coordinator at Florida and Oklahoma State went 33-19 in four seasons at Southern Miss. Fedora led the 22nd-ranked Golden Eagles to the Conference USA championship and extended two impressive streaks ó 10 straight bowl appearances and 18 consecutive winning seasons ó in his final year in Hattiesburg, Miss.
The 49-year-old native of College Station, Texas, is perhaps best known for his aggressive coaching style and wide-open offenses. He became a hot commodity this offseason after he led Southern Miss to an 11-2 record and a dominating upset of then-No. 7 Houston in the C-USA championship game.
ěI like exciting football just like everybody else,î chancellor Holden Thorp said. ěSo if weíre going to throw the ball a lot and go crazy, that sounds like a lot of fun to me.î
Linebacker Kevin Reddick and quarterback Bryn Renner were among a handful of UNC players who also attended the news conference.
ěIt sounded good,î Reddick said. ěLike he said, I hope the players buy into it. Iím willing to buy into it.î
North Carolina offered Fedora a longer contract because it put itself on two years of probation in the aftermath of an NCAA investigation into improper benefits and academic misconduct within the program. That probe led to the firing of Davis ó the big-name coach brought in five years ago to turn UNC into a national power ó days before training camp. The NCAA alleged nine violations, with the most serious being that a former assistant coach had worked to steer players to sign with an NFL agent.
North Carolina has also sanctioned itself by vacating all 16 victories from 2008 and 2009 and cutting nine scholarships over the next three years. The school appeared before the NCAA infractions committee in October and is still waiting to hear from the NCAA whether those penalties are enough, which is why new athletic director Bubba Cunningham said he made sure during negotiations that Fedora knew exactly what he was inheriting in Chapel Hill.
ěThe idea was this is an unbelievably special place, but itís not perfect,î Cunningham said. ěWe need to work through that and figure out a way to be successful. He was terrific. Heís all over it. He knows exactly what we need to do to get better.î
Defensive coordinator Everett Withers served as interim coach this season and will coach the Tar Heels (7-5) against Missouri in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 26, the programís fourth straight bowl trip. Withers interviewed for the permanent job last week, one of four people Cunningham said he interviewed for the job.
Cunningham has said Withers will coach the Tar Heels in the bowl, but his future beyond that is uncertain. Fedora said he has a plan in place for building a staff and that ěconsiderationî would be given to current UNC coaches, but he didnít give specifics.
The Tar Heelsí bowl game comes two days after Fedora will coach the Golden Eagles for the last time, against Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl.
Thorp said Fedora first arrived in Chapel Hill on Wednesday. After meeting with Thorp at the chancellorís home, Fedora was confined to a car during his tour of campus to keep a low profile and avoid media scrutiny.
Fedora returned to Southern Miss on Thursday to meet with players and coaches there, calling that meeting ěprobably the hardest thing Iíve ever done.î
He sounded like heís not planning another one.
ěWe have moved across this country,î Fedora said of his family, listing the stops during his coaching career. ěWeíre looking for a home, and weíre ready to stop moving, I can assure you.î
AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary contributed to this report.
The Associated Press