In Larry Fedora, UNC seems to have landed the right coach

acarter@newsobserver.comNovember 26, 2012 

— Coaching searches are rarely easy but the one that North Carolina embarked on about a year ago amid national scrutiny that followed an NCAA investigation at least went quickly and has seemed to work out well. Less than two weeks after the Tar Heels ended the 2011 season, UNC introduced Larry Fedora as its new head coach to replace interim head coach Everett Withers.

There weren’t many leaks or rumors before UNC hired Fedora. And there were no embarrassing stories about potential candidates turning the job down, either. The process was a smooth one and, one year later, apparently the correct one, too.

The Tar Heels on Saturday ended Fedora’s first season with a 45-38 victory against Maryland. Without the motivation of a bowl game, or the prospect of competing for the ACC championship, UNC finished 8-4 and finished in a three-way tie atop the Coastal Division standings.

Fedora was named head coach after NCAA investigations into academic misconduct and acceptance of inappropriate benefits that led to the firing of head coach Butch Davis and the suspension of numerous players. Fedora has led the program through both the adversity of NCAA sanctions that left them banned from the postseason for one year and through adversity that comes naturally during the first year of a new coach’s tenure. Before his team’s final game Fedora spoke with his players, and especially his seniors, about overcoming hardships.

“That’s something to be said about this group,” he said after UNC rallied from a 14-point third-quarter deficit to defeat Maryland. “We talked to the seniors last night about not just in the game of football, but in the game of life you’re going to have adversity. Life is full of adversity and it’s how you react to it, what you do to overcome it.

“That determines what kind of man you are.”

Time will be the ultimate judge of Fedora, and of whether UNC made the correct choice last year. So far, though, the Tar Heels’ leadership appears as stable as it has been since early in Davis’ tenure, before NCAA violations surfaced that placed his job in jeopardy.

When he was hired, Fedora promised an up-tempo, energetic style of play that, he hoped, would entice fans to fill Kenan Stadium. There were plenty of empty seats for the senior day game against Maryland on Saturday, but Fedora delivered on his end, and the Heels were indeed one of the most prolific offensive teams in the nation.

“It’s only the beginning,” UNC senior lineman Jonathan Cooper said of Fedora’s first season. “To be part of that, it means the world to me. I feel like they can only go up from here and do great things and I’m proud to be a part of that.”

Carter: 919-829-8944 Twitter: @_andrewcarter

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