Towards the end of Carolina’s 33-10 home loss to Notre Dame on Saturday, I saw #FireFedora show up over and over. When I clicked on the hashtag, it appeared that UNC fans were pretty evenly split. Some want Fedora fired immediately, while others still believe in the coach. In this article, we’ll take a close look at Fedora’s track record and try to determine just how worried Tar Heel fans should be.
Is Larry Fedora the kind of coach that can rebuild and sustain? That’s the real question in all of this. Any rational UNC fan understands that in a rebuilding year with THIS MANY injuries the team is going to be bad. And this team is bad. But one awful year isn’t what’s causing the #FireFedora movement. Fans are looking at the bigger picture here.
Larry Fedora is only 55 and looks ten years younger. He doesn’t have a proven track record that Carolina fans can point to and say “ok, he’s rebuilt before.” In fact, he has quite the opposite of that. In his only head coaching gig prior to UNC, he went 7-6, 7-6, 8-5, and then had an awesome 12-2 season that catapulted him into the ACC. That stretch is very similar to his first 4 seasons in Chapel Hill (8, 7, 6, 11 wins). Fedora has shown he can create excitement and recruit well… at least in the beginning. To me though, the #FireFedora bandwagon has less to do with what Larry has actually done in Chapel Hill and more about what happened at Southern Miss after his departure.
This isn’t fresh news to most UNC fans. They know USM was awful after Fedora left. But some of you may not know just how awful. After Fedora’s 12-2 season, USM was the only team in the FBS to go winless in 2012. 0-12 in 2012. They went 0-11 in 2013 before winning the season finale. THAT’S 23 LOSSES IN A ROW. In year 3 post-Fedora, USM went 3-9. All of those teams were stocked with Fedora recruits. It’s not Fedora’s fault if the coaching was poor after he left, but I’m sorry… poor coaching doesn’t account for 23 straight losses and a 3 year record of 4-32. That comes from a frightening lack of talent.
Speaking of talent, Fedora had plenty when he arrived in Chapel Hill. In his first year, the Heels beat NC State for the first time since 2006 and fitted themselves with Coastal Division championship rings although they were ineligible to appear in the ACC Championship Game. NCAA sanctions certainly led to a lack of veteran talent in year 2 and 3, when the Heels regressed from 8 wins to 7, then 6. But, just as he did at Southern Miss, Fedora was able to turn in a huge 4th year as his recruits became upperclassmen. An 11-3 record and a berth in the ACC Championship Game had UNC fans thinking Fedora not only woke up that sleeping giant, but gave the giant a water tower sized serving of Red Bull.
2016 was supposed to be another big season. UNC began 7-2 with yet another chance to win the Coastal. But losses to rivals Duke and NC State plus a bowl game loss to Stanford spoiled the season. Tar Heel fans couldn’t help but be disappointed. A rebuild was in order. But can Fedora rebuild and sustain?
Recruiting rankings are notoriously hit or miss. Fedora’s 44th ranked class in 2012 led to a ton of success in 2015/16. His 2013 class was ranked 42nd according to Rivals and featured Mitch Trubisky, Ryan Switzer, TJ Logan, Des Lawrence, and Naz Jones. Since then, UNC’s classes have been ranked 23rd, 28th, and 22nd. There SHOULD be more talent now than there was on the 2015 & 2016 teams. But the eye test, even without the abundant injuries, tells us that isn’t the case.
Should Tar Heel fans be worried about the future for Fedora and the football program? Yes. But there’s a little problem with #FireFedora right now. Bubba Cunningham said on 12/5/15 that Fedora had “put our program in a position to compete for championships on a consistent basis…” which led to a 7 year contract extension. Fedora is signed through 2022, with a buyout package that exceeds 1M per year. Not only would replacing Fedora be very costly, but realistically what proven winner would want to take the job next year?
The optics of firing a head coach two seasons removed from an 11 win season, at a school that hasn’t seen many of those seasons, isn’t likely to attract a big name candidate. At best, UNC would be rolling the dice with another mid-major coach that could well be a flash in the pan. While I certainly understand some UNC fans starting to panic, the best option is to stick with Fedora and hope that he can rebuild and sustain. Even with this rebuilding year, very few are questioning Fedora’s offensive genius. With that fast-break offensive mindset and a promising young QB in Chazz Surratt, Carolina fans need to be patient and take a wait and see approach. We would expect a coordinator shakeup at the end of this season, but for now #FireFedora is too soon.
We discuss Carolina Football weekly on our podcast which you can find on iTunes/GooglePlay or here: https://soundcloud.com/triangle-2-podcast
This week, we talk about Mitch Trubisky’s NFL debut for the Bears
Follow on Twitter: Triangleand_2