NCAA case done, UNC football team to start practice

acarter@newsobserver.comMarch 13, 2012 

UNCFB01-SP-010312-RTW

UNC football coach Larry Fedora announces his coaching staff during a press conference on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill.

ROBERT WILLETT — ROBERT WILLETT - rwillett@newsobserver.com

  • The NCAA found the case against the North Carolina football program involved major violations. Penalties added Monday include:

    -- Three years probation.

    -- A ban from postseason play in 2012, including the ACC championship and a bowl game.

    -- Loss of 15 scholarships over three years.

    North Carolina previously vacated all football victories in the 2008 and 2009 seasons and self-imposed a $50,000 fine.

    Also, the NCAA imposed a three-year show-clause on John Blake, a former assistant coach, banning him from recruiting and likely from coaching for three years.

— There was anger when Larry Fedora gathered his North Carolina football team on Monday and told his players they wouldn’t be eligible to play in the postseason in the upcoming season. There was disappointment.

“Then it was, OK – now what do we do?” said Fedora, entering his first spring as the Tar Heels’ coach. “The good thing about it is it’s over. It’s out there. We know what it is. It’s done. There’s no more speculation.

“We know what it is now. And now we can move on.”

UNC will begin spring practice today, just two days after the NCAA finalized a major infractions case that hung over the football program since the summer of 2010. The NCAA Committee on Infractions ruled on Monday that UNC must serve a one-year postseason ban, and it took away five scholarships in each of the next three seasons. UNC is also on probation for three years.

The day was disappointing. Fedora, his staff and their players had been hoping to avoid a postseason ban that will keep the Tar Heels from competing in a bowl and the ACC championship, even if they win the ACC’s Coastal Division.

But Monday was also a good day because what had been unknown finally became known. Fedora learned the NCAA’s verdict on Monday morning, after he received a phone call from Bubba Cunningham, the UNC athletics director.

Cunningham called Fedora into his office, and told him the news.

“I’m not one to dwell on it,” Fedora said Tuesday. “I mean, it is what it is. It’s about, OK, how do we react to this adversity that we’ve got? That’s going to determine who we are. Let’s just be positive and let’s move forward and let’s make it something good.”

UNC announced Fedora’s hiring on December 8. Fedora technically began work at the school later that month, after he coached his former team, Southern Miss., to a victory in the Hawaii Bowl. One of Fedora’s most important priorities was to build a recruiting class, and quickly.

Everywhere Fedora and his staff went, though, the specter of NCAA sanctions awaited them. Now that uncertainty is gone.

Though the bowl ban is disappointing, Fedora said he didn’t think the scholarship cuts would have a great impact. UNC had already self-imposed a loss of nine scholarships over three years.

“We were already prepared to be at 82 scholarships,” Fedora said. “So we had already planned for that. So now we’re at 80. So that means we’ll take one more from the offense, and one more from the defense. So when you look at it that way, it’s really not that big of a deal.”

Fedora’s first practice as UNC’s head coach will begin today at 3:30 p.m. There will be 14 more during the next month, including the annual spring game, and during that time Fedora said he has three primary goals: He wants his players to learn the new schemes, he wants them to learn how to practice with the energy he expects. And, Fedora said, “I want to identify the players that are going to help us win a Coastal Division championship next year.”

Carter: 829-8944

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