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#ACCKickoff: WYD, Larry Fedora?

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I had an entirely different post on the UNC portion of the ACC’s media event until Larry went off script.

NCAA Football: ACC Media Days Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

It all started off innocently enough.

The game is safer than its ever been before, players understand the risks to their bodies and we are cognizant of that.

In the interview room at the ACC Kickoff in Charlotte, this was Larry Fedora’s response to questions about rule changes, namely the new “fair catch rule” on kickoffs.

With dynamic return man Anthony Ratliff-Williams just leaving the podium, Fedora continued:

With a guy like (Ratliff-Williams), you have to understand more about the kick— where you are on the field, catch it with forward momentum. 11 guys are running at you full speed, and you have to be at full speed back at them.

This sounds like a guy who, despite his exploits as an offensive-minded coach, has long had a heavy hand in UNC’s elite special teams play. The takeaway from the interviews in the main media room before breakout sessions was essentially, the rules have changed, but it’s not going to change the way we play.

Well, umm, let’s say Fedora doubled down on the taekery once breakout sessions started, and not in a good way:

A lot of what Fedora said is going to be taken out of context. I believe his comments about America, based on the current climate surrounding our country as a whole, are going to be (or have already been) blown WAY out of proportion.

But taking the leap in logic from inherent risks on special teams, to Gob Bluth-ing the data on CTE studies as they relate to football, to (paraphrasing) the pussification and impending doom of America...yikes. That’s going to raise a lot of red flags.

And make no mistake— Fedora went ROGUE on the topic of CTE, and there is no way to make that sound any better:

I’m not going to defend this— I defended his hiring of Tim Beckman, who was fired from Illinois under allegations of player abuse, as an unpaid analyst before the 2015 season. UNC’s administration saw to it that Beckman was removed before fall camp started.

But taking the stance that “research on CTE can be manipulated to make football look bad” is taking a page straight out the of #FOOTBALLGUY playbook that needs to be eliminated from the sport.

Fedora had a “back in my day” moment at ACC Kickoff, and it’s going to put Carolina squarely in the news cycle— and not in the good way. Before the breakout sessions, he talked about how research had led to the end of three-a-day practices, limited water breaks, and made the game safer than ever. He walked back his comments a little bit, stating that people shouldn’t be playing tackle football until middle school, but the PR hits and philosophical shots had long since been fired.

What had been (begrudging, if we’re being honest) praise of the virtues of modern health practices in football turned into a not-at-all-veiled criticism of modern player safety— and that’s highly problematic.

The political commentary can be, and will be, taken out of context and blown out of proportion. That may be unfair, but it reflects on today’s media climate.

The real issue is that a present-day football coach, paid to recruit and develop young athletes, does not buy the extensive research on the correlation of football to traumatic brain injuries.

Given that his comments on the CTE issue can in no way be taken out of context, one would be led to the conclusion (in the words of the coach, “you can’t prove it!”) that this fundamentally and mind-numbingly stupid take is the beginning of the end of the Larry Fedora era.