During the ACC Kickoff last month, Larry Fedora made headlines across the country with various comments about football, how the game relates to the country, and of course, CTE. On what was a very slow news day hot takes were aplenty, and at the time it seemed like Larry Fedora was determined to keep the football program in the news for weird reasons. While one can argue that’s not the fairest of takes, players for the football team didn’t help better things when they decided to sell shoes that were given to them by the university and force UNC to self-report themselves to the NCAA.
What might’ve been buried in the media storm for some is that Larry Fedora wasn’t wrong, or at least he wasn’t according to neuropathologist and associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology at Boston University School of Medicine, Peter Cummings. Cummings stated in a Yahoo article that “association is not causation”, and that nobody has definitely proven that football causes CTE. He then went on to defend the many changes made to the game to help prevent brain damage, saying that they have made more changes than any other sport. Why do I point this out? Well, as it turns out, Larry Fedora also was at least half-right about other comments that he made that day.
The source of Larry Fedora’s claims that football is on a decline in America are now revealed, as we find out that it is indeed on a decline in his own back yard. Chapel Hill High School announced this past Monday that they will not have a varsity football team this season. This is not an isolated incident either, as Cedar Ridge High School had already announced that they will not have a team either. Last season, East Chapel Hill High School did not have a varsity football team, either. Being that there are only five high schools in Orange County, this is quite the statistic to say the least.
Marilyn Payne with WRALSportsFan.com got to speak with Larry Fedora about the high schools’ lack of participation in football in the past two seasons:
“I hate it for those young men, (that) that’s what’s happening because they’re missing out on a tremendous opportunity,” Fedora said. “You guys know how I feel about the game of football. I’m passionate about it. I feel like it’s something they need. It would be good for them. I hate that for them.”
On why he thinks football is declining in Orange County:
“I don’t know what the answer to that is, I don’t know what the culture at those schools is so it’d be hard for me to say.”
So why is local high school football on a decline? The short answer is: nobody knows. There are theories involving failure to draw in varsity talent, socioeconomical reasons (soccer, lacrosse, and baseball do very well in the county), and the proximity that parents have to the work being done at the Matthew-GfellerSport-Related Traumatic Injury Research Center at UNC.
What we do know is that schools in surrounding counties have mostly been able to avoid such a fate — first-round MLB draft pick and high school dual-athlete Jordyn Adams played at Green Hope High School in Cary, North Carolina, which is part of Wake County. To expand the scope further: the entire state of North Carolina produced 14 four and five-star recruits according to 247 Sports metrics (not to be confused with the 247 Sports composite score). So, needless to say the rest of the state isn’t exactly hurting for talent. However, if this trend spreads outside of Orange County, other parts of the state may run into the same problems.
So no, once again Larry Fedora isn’t completely wrong. Once again his seemingly unusual hot takes have been exposed as a form of the truth that some will understand as a reason why he says the things he says, and others could ride off as an overreaction to local high schools not being able to generate interest in one of their sports programs. Either way, it might be worth doing some digging whenever Fedora says something odd behind the podium. Hopefully with UNC football starting in just a couple of weeks, however, all of the focus will be put into getting his team back on track to compete for the Coastal division title.