In case you missed it this past week, Ty Duffy at The Big Lead has a top-10 list of college football coaches on the hot seat for 2015, and his #1 is Larry Fedora.
The Freak Show is 18-17 vs. FBS after three years and trending downward. Highlights under Fedora have been six pack abs and fake championship rings. North Carolina’s defense gave up 55 and 70 points in consecutive losses to East Carolina. The Tar Heels closed 2014 being body slammed by N.C. State and getting torched by Rutgers in a bowl game. Maybe Gene Chizik’s fashion sense will be the missing ingredient?
On the surface, this is a harsh but not wholly inaccurate assessment of Fedora's time in Chapel Hill. The trend has been downward as UNC logged its first losing season on the field in seven years and Fedora's first in his head coaching career. In addition, the scholarship limits are at their maximum impact and this year's defense was historically bad. On the other hand, there have been more highlights than Duffy allows for, but the wretched end to this past season and the blowout loss to ECU have left a bad taste in the mouth of both the fan base and the national media.
Also, it's hard to see Fedora being at the top of this list, given some of the others on it. The list includes South Florida's Willie Taggart (6-18 over past two years), Illinois' Tim Beckman (4-20 in the B1G over the last 3 years), Paul Rhoads (2-16 in the Big 12 over the past two years plus two losses to FCS teams), and even Virginia's Mike London, who is 17-28 vs. FBS teams in the last five years. Even if you think Fedora is struggling, it is hard to see him even on that list, much less atop it, and placing him here shows a lack of understanding of the complexities surrounding Carolina football.
In addition, it is important not to confuse disgruntlement with being on the hot seat. Clearly the fan base and likely the administration are unhappy with how things went down in 2014. Kenan Stadium and the Inside Carolina message boards were not fun places to be, especially down the stretch. It's hard to generate a lot of support when you are rolling over for your last two games, one against a rival and one people actually had to travel for. There is certainly a general cloud of unease over the Kenan Football Center.
Fedora responded to the defensive issues by canning Vic Koenning , and it would appear that UNC is allowing Fedora a serious attempt to upgrade the defensive side of the ball by opening up the checkbook (as well as the potential for severe scrutiny) to hire Gene Chizik. That is not usually the type of commitment shown to a coach on the hot seat.
Still, the simple fact of the matter remains that while dissatisfaction might be high, as of right now the official temperature of Fedora's seat is as cool as a Carolina morning in January - for the time being. There is a reason Fedora was given a seven-year deal, with NCAA sanctions and coaching turmoil upon his arrival. And with more NCAA sanctions a possibility, it's not like the line to replace Fedora would be long should UNC even be interested in making a change. Fedora likely has at least two more years before the hot seat really cranks up.
All that being said, the unofficial Fedora watch starts this season. The scholarship sanctions are over (for now), every recruit in the program belongs to Fedora and his staff, and the UNC offense returns 10 starters. In addition, the schedule eases up significantly. If Chizik is eventually hired and can make some headway on defense, then UNC should see progress. But another slow start and flirtation with bowl eligibility (or worse) next season, and the heat will be turned on a little earlier than expected.