In years past, North Carolina fans have not had the most to cheer about in terms of football success. It is widely known that North Carolina is a basketball school, boasting five national championships and calling the greatest player of all time one of their alumni. However, one man is on a mission to change that. Enter Larry Fedora.
Fedora came in shortly after the Butch Davis scandal, turned the program around, and headed in the right direction for four straight years, compiling a 32-20 record while at the helm. He is about to enter his 5th season as the Tar Heels head coach, and the difference he has made in the program is starting to come to fruition. In his first four years he has led North Carolina to two first place finishes in the ACC Coastal division, along with three straight bowl appearances.
However, his most impressive accomplishment is the 11-win season he recorded last year. A season that saw 62 records broken, and came just short of an ACC title. The obvious effects of these accomplishments are evident in the fact that UNC currently holds the number 13 ranked recruiting class in the nation.
Not only is Fedora changing the winning culture, he is changing the recruiting culture as well. When Fedora arrived in 2012 he implemented the “Freak Show,” a one-day invite-only camp for top prospects in the country. What makes the “Freak Show” different is that it is held at nighttime, in Kenan Stadium, where players compete at a high level while adorning special “Freak Show” jerseys.
Fedora’s team will get more national exposure this year with games against highly ranked opponents such as Georgia and Florida State. If Fedora’s squad can show that last year was not just a fluke, and stay in the talk for a possible college football playoff bid, then he should see his recruiting class climb the rankings even further between now and national signing day.
Another way that Fedora has impacted the culture: accountability. Coach Fedora created an accountability plan with all of his players. The format is simple and to the point. He split the squad into eight separate teams. Each team drafted players from the team’s roster. The teams earned points through team-bonding activities such as bowling and home run hitting contests. This doesn’t sound like it’s even scraping the idea of accountability does it? Well here’s the catch, points are deducted when players commit “violations,” such as turning a paper in late or receiving a parking ticket.
The plan extends beyond this as well. Fedora also implemented a series of titles that span across all levels of the spectrum of commitment to the team. The titles include: Compelled, Committed, Compliant, Existent, Reluctant, and Resistant. The coaches then assess the level of commitment of each player who is then given a title to adorn. These titles are then plastered next to each players name outside of their locker, to show everyone how committed they are to the program and the team goals.
It’s innovative recruiting tactics, mixed with team accountability, combined with winning that has helped shape the new culture of UNC football. And if North Carolina can string together a few 10-win seasons and keep itself in the national spotlight, then UNC fans will continue to find themselves rooting for not only a basketball school, but a football school as well.