CHAPEL HILL — There was anger when Larry Fedora gathered his North Carolina football team on Monday and told his players they wouldnt 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 its over. Its out there. We know what it is. Its done. Theres 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 ACCs Coastal Division.
But Monday was also a good day because what had been unknown finally became known. Fedora learned the NCAAs 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.
Im not one to dwell on it, Fedora said Tuesday. I mean, it is what it is. Its about, OK, how do we react to this adversity that weve got? Thats going to determine who we are. Lets just be positive and lets move forward and lets make it something good.
UNC announced Fedoras 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 Fedoras 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 didnt 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 were at 80. So that means well take one more from the offense, and one more from the defense. So when you look at it that way, its really not that big of a deal.
Fedoras first practice as UNCs 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.