Sports

Florence, Pitt, a 12th game: Here’s what’s on Larry Fedora’s mind

UNC’s Fedora: ‘I hate the fact we’re 0-2’

UNC Tar Heels football coach Larry Fedora talked about the team’s loss to the ECU Pirates on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 and handling adversity.
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UNC Tar Heels football coach Larry Fedora talked about the team’s loss to the ECU Pirates on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 and handling adversity.

For North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora, Monday’s weekly press conference was about more than just football.

This time it was about Hurricane Florence and its affect on his player’s hometowns and other teams and UNC’s efforts to help victims. Fedora spent most of the press conference talking about the deadly storm that made landfall at Wilmington on Thursday as a Category 1 hurricane.

“To be honest with you, we’re more worried about what’s going on right now across the state with the people that are being affected by the hurricane,” Fedora said. “That’s really where all of our thoughts need to be. We do have to prepare for a football game this week against Pitt and we will do that, but there are a lot of people out there that are suffering.”

Twenty-five deaths, including 19 in North Carolina, have been reported.

Fedora did talk some about football, saying UNC (0-2) hopes to add a 12th game to its schedule. That extra game, which would replace the Central Florida game that was canceled this past Saturday due to Florence, would affect the nine players who were suspended for four games after selling team-issued Air Jordan sneakers.

Here’s more on that along with three other takeaways from today’s press conference:

1. UNC wants to schedule a 12th game

When UNC canceled its game against UCF, it did not change the return date of the nine players who were suspended for four games in the shoe scandal.

Those players were supposed to sit out for 30 percent of the season, which changed from four games to three once the game was canceled.

However, if UNC does schedule a 12th game, those suspended players will have to sit out the following game if they have not already sat out four games.

“I think it would be good to have a 12th game,” Fedora said. “We were prepared for our guys to sit four, so it’s not like that would something extra for us.”

2. Most of the team is back on campus

Fedora said about half of his team stayed in Chapel Hill during Florence, while the other half left campus on Wednesday before the storm. None of his players went east, and those who were from the areas that were hit the hardest found places to stay or stayed with teammates.

Nearly all players have returned to campus, Fedora said, but a few were still traveling back. He said he has been in constant contact with those players.

When asked if any of his players’ families were displaced, Fedora said some of the families of his players left their homes to get away from the storm.

“Like some of the high school coaches I talked to this morning, they left Wilmington and they can’t get back to Wilmington,” he said. “You’ve heard Wilmington is basically an island and the roads are cut off and they have no way to get back over there. Some of them still don’t know what kind of damage there was to their homes.”

3. Efforts to help storm victims

Along with using its equipment truck to collect and deliver donated supplies to storm victim, Fedora said the team will also help former UNC football player Kevin Reddick gather water and Gatorade for residents in New Bern, an area that experieced massive flooding. Reddick, who’s from New Bern and played for the Tar Heels from 2009 to 2012, reached out to the program for help.

“We’re blessed,” Fedora said. “We really were not affected very heavily by the storm, but there were a lot of people that are. And I want our guys to really understand that, and what that means. We want to find any ways that we can give back to the community and help the people that were affected.”

4. Fedora expects a tough game against Pitt

The Tar Heels have won the last five against Pitt (2-1) and lead the series 9-3, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a tough game for UNC, Fedora said. UNC’s 34-31 win over Pitt in 2017 was one of only three games the Tar Heels won last season.

“Every game that we’ve played against Pitt in the past has always been close,” Fedora said. “Every single one of them.

“I think (coach Pat Narduzzi) is going to have his team prepared to play. We’re going to have our team prepared to play and we’re going to have to do the best job we can.”

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Alexander, 919-829-4822; @jonmalexander
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