According to Greg Barnes at Inside Carolina, UNC's AD Bubba Cunningham has initiated contract discussions with Larry Fedora.
“They are in discussions,” the source told InsideCarolina.com on Wednesday. “They want it to be a workable deal. They want him here for the long term.”
UNC is intent on elevating Fedora’s salary, as well as his assistant coaches’ pay, to that of a market-relevant rate, according to the source.
This was not unexpected and absolutely the right move. Fedora's name was being tossed about quite a bit as coaching vacancies popped up across the college football landscape. The fourth year coach has become a hot commodity and rightfully so given the conditions he inherited at UNC which he endured to get the Tar Heels to 11-1 this season. That being said, the current list of vacancies do not really include jobs Fedora is likely to leave Chapel Hill to take. The job at Georgia, which opened when Mark Richt was fired on Sunday, may have been one but the Bulldogs moved quickly to hire Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. Barring surprise openings in the SEC or Big 12, it is unlikely Fedora is going anywhere this season.
The other reason for a new contract is the man has earned his money. In his four seasons, Fedora has endured NCAA penalties, an ongoing scandal he had nothing to do with and less than stellar fan support at times. Fedora came in with a seven year deal, longer than the standard five years. The extra two years were intended to give him more time to get past the NCAA penalties which were announced before Fedora's first season began. Those penalties included a reduction of five scholarships per year for three years and a postseason ban in 2012 which kept UNC out of the ACC Championship game.
After two seasons where UNC played uneven football and a defense that completely fell apart, Fedora made significant changes to his defensive staff. Vic Koenning and most of his staff was relieved of their duties and former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik was brought in with a highly skilled staff of position coaches to fix one of the worst defenses in school history. It worked beyond everyone's wildest dreams and Fedora should be credited for laying aside some ego, bringing in a big name like Chizik and letting him run the defense the way he saw fit.
Historically speaking, Fedora is one of only four coaches in UNC history to get a Tar Heel team to 11 wins in a season. The last one who did it, Mack Brown, left for Texas shortly after the season ended with many UNC fans feeling like AD Dick Baddour didn't do enough to keep Brown in Chapel Hill. Clearly, Cunningham isn't going to make that mistake or that very least make every effort to keep Fedora happy.
As much as Fedora should be handsomely rewarded for building an 11-1 football team with NCAA penalties and a scandal that simply won't end, Cunningham knows he shouldn't wait to pay the coach what he deserves. The current contract does not have much of a disincentive to keep Fedora from leaving. As Barnes noted, current deal has a buyout of just $250,000, pocket change in today's college athletics world. At the time, Cunningham didn't want to make it difficult for Fedora to leave if the NCAA situation was simply unmanageable. Now that UNC is likely past the brunt of that for football(everyone hopes anyway), a larger buyout can be put in place to at least provide some pause on leaving.
The extra money for assistants is also a key component. This season is a huge testimony to the value of having a solid staff. Given the work the defensive staff and the offensive line coaches have done, a raise is certainly due and raising the salary bar for the staff aids in retention or attracting new talent if necessary.
Ultimately these negotiations are the second in a series of moves to build up the football program. UNC announced in mid-November that the school would invest $25 million into a new indoor practice facility. That announcement was, for all practical purposes, the first move in Cunningham's negotiation with Fedora. It showed a serious commitment to the program which may serve to keep Fedora here providing he can keep the current momentum going.