Larry Fedora talked briefly during his various national signing day appearances about some of the "comical" things opposing coaches said about UNC during recruiting.
Fedora declined to share the specifics of what rival coaches might have told prospects about what penalties UNC might face. It’s not too difficult to imagine. Certainly the prospect of a bowl ban would have been raised. Probably the prospect of a multi-year bowl ban was used against the Tar Heels. Massive scholarship cuts, which would affect UNC’s ability to be competitive.
Fedora said he and his staff had to deal with other aspects of negative recruiting, too. Some schools, he said, told prospects that Fedora wouldn’t actually install his up-tempo spread offense at UNC. Instead, those other schools said, the Tar Heels would run the same type of traditional pro-style offense that’s been the norm in Chapel Hill since, well … a long time.
“There were schools that were actually out there saying, hey, they’re not going to run that offense,” Fedora said. “They’re going to run what they’ve always run here at North Carolina. Which I found very comical. So it was – that’s just the way it is in recruiting.”
Needless to say, having NCAA penalties looming is a huge albatross to hang on a coaches neck. Opposing coaches undoubtedly tell prospects that UNC could get a bowl ban, possibly for two years. I imagine they also throw around words like "probation" around knowing it sounds bad but in reality it does not really affect the program. They also point to UNC's NCAA troubles as evidence the program is dirty which plays on the parents more so than the propsect himself.
For rational adults like you and I who are well informed about these matters, the negative recruiting can be easily answered. For a 17-18 year old high school player being asked to make a life altering decision which requires them to put their trust in the guy sitting in their living room, the water can get muddy in a hurry. Add the parental factor to it and things can really get complicated.
The real obstacle for any coach with potential NCAA penalties is the lack of specifics. Fedora and the rest of the staff can paint as rosy picture as possible but only using the broadest statements. If you tell a prospect there will be no bowl ban, he commits then UNC gets one, it creates credibility problems, especially if it filters down to high school coaches. On the flip side, an opposing coach can paint a dire picture, even be specific and it probably matters less providing they don't reach too far. The power of negative recruiting(and campaigning in politics) is in the emotional response. Negative attacks are used to draw on people's fears and emotions in order to cloud their judgment. It doesn't always work because you hope people are smart enough to really investigate these matters for themselves. Unlike in politics, most of the information a prospect will get or cares about will comes from the coaches recruiting them. At that point it becomes a question of which coach does the prospect believe and trust the most.
Of course the telling part of what Fedora said had to do with non-NCAA related negative recruiting. Fedora said opposing coaches were telling recruits UNC was not planning on running his spread offense but stick with the pro-style that has been a staple for years in Chapel Hill. This kind of attack either came from teams who also run some variation of the spread which is likely since programs look for good fits or some coaches are concerned UNC's offense might be more attractive to prospects. I am betting more on the former but Fedora's sale pitch is the high octane offense so that will end up being a point of attack for some.
At some point here soon, the NCAA will issue the final report and all the cards will be on the table so Fedora can head into the next recruiting cycle with a clearer picture of the state of the program.