Tying Up Loose Ends

Grant Halverson

Now that it appears the Tennessee coaching search, like a wobbly hurricane, has veered up the coast and will not hit Chapel Hill, let's tie up a few loose ends.

Was Larry Fedora actually a candidate?

I would say yes, he was on Tennessee AD Dave Hart's list of coaches. That is the rumor that actually started this whole thing and the storm grew from there. Fedora appears to have been one of three coaches Hart was considering with the other two being Louisville's Charlie Strong and Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy. There was more than enough smoke to believe this particular fire existed. The question is...

How serious was it?

This is what scholars and message board denizens will debate well into the weekend. Depending on who you believe, the rumors ranged from Fedora was not interested at all to people saying he was unhappy with UNC's persistent academic issues to the point he wanted out. Inside Carolina had a mult-sourced report on the premium side(natch) that said Fedora had not interviewed and was not going to interview. There were other reports that indicate this was the case but later on Tuesday came a report he did interview. So....

Did Fedora actually interview with Tennessee?

For much of this I was inclined to believe that was the case based on there being no hard denial from UNC or Fedora and why the heck not? An interview doesn't hurt, especially since Fedora and Hart were both in New York at the same hotel. There is one piece of information which casts doubts on there actually being an interview. According to Louisville AD Tom Jurich, Hart followed protocol and notified Jurich that he was speaking with Strong. Since UNC has confirmed there was no contact between UNC and Tennessee concerning Fedora, the likelihood an interview occurred is lessened. Obviously that doesn't discount back channel interaction nor should anyone be surprised if said interaction happened.

If Fedora never interviewed and was not interested in the job then why not say so?

That is a question best left to Fedora and Bubba Cunningham. For whatever reason, they were perfectly willing to allow an incoming recruit be the sole, public discounting of the rumors which carried the same risk of backlash as issuing a simple denial. In fact I would go as far as to say issuing a denial would have been easier to renege on because no one takes them all that seriously anyway. Therein lies the argument for not commenting at all but the point remains. If you are willing to tell people who end up talking to Inside Carolina and if you are willing to tell a recruit then go ahead and issue a short denial and be done with it.

Unfortunately the lack of a denial is what makes even sorting it out now very murky.

So who was right? Wrong?

Everyone and no one. Such is the nature of the beast in an era of social media where anyone can publish what they hear. The problem in the current age is information flows like a giant river with various people tossing anything and everything into it. You have no idea when and where certain pieces of the story entered the river which makes it very difficult discern what it true, false, or was true/false at some other point in time. That is why pointing to one story on Tuesday afternoon as definitive doesn't work particularly well. That is why having someone official like Fedroa or Cunningham to issue a statement would have been nice to keep it from getting out of hand.

In addition, to that, let me point out there is a ton of confirmation bias that goes on, especially from the fans of the coach who is being targeted. There is a blatant unwillingness to accept as true any story that goes against the stated preference of the recipient. If a report based on "sources" says Fedora is interested in the UT job, said story is wholly dismissed as the work of a hack and the fall of journalism is mourned. If a story based on "sources" says Fedora will be in Chapel Hill for life, it is hailed as true and the always annoying "boom" is levied. In other words, we hear what we want to hear and dismiss as false that which we do not like.

Okay, so if this is all such a big mess why talk about it at all?

Because it is relevant. The goal of this blog from the start was to simply discuss, in an coherent manner, the speculation as it came. We are smart enough to know, as I trust you our readers are, that most of the speculation was just that and to take it with a grain of salt. Yes, there is a lot of garbage that gets passed off as true and here at THB we strive to put the proper disclaimers and qualifiers on anything we feel is not rock solid. If there are rumors, then people want to talk about it. As a site devoted to UNC athletics, we provide a forum for that and at the same time it allows us to create a record of the rumors and speculation so there is less confusion. The story stream feature here at SBN has been awesome in this respect. This tool has allowed us to do individual posts of the latest news items and curate them all in one place to no one has to go searching for all the different aspects of the story.

There are some(many of them on the most speculative and opinionated place ever created: a message board) who think speculation should be ignored and rumors simply dismissed without comment.They think acknowledging this information is tantamount to fanning the flames and in this case anti-UNC behavior. Speaking for myself, I don't quite understand that. There is no harm in addressing stories like the ones we have seen for the past three days. Why? Because smart people can have rational discussions about speculation and rumors without validating or endorsing them. If you combine being smart and rational with a proper perspective in your fan life, the coaching carousel rumor mill can be a lot of fun.

Now someone be sure to remind me I wrote that a year from now.

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