$12.2 million. That’s the number I would like you to remember. If at any point during this assessment you feel that Larry Fedora is being criticized too harshly or being blamed for issues not entirely his own fault, I encourage you to repeat that number to yourself and rest easy knowing that Larry will be just fine. Over the next four years, Larry Fedora will be paid $12.2 million by the University of North Carolina to NOT coach.
And let’s be abundantly clear: That is far better than the alternative.
There are, as far as I can tell, four major boxes that ought to be checked when considering whether or not a college football coach is doing the job they have been hired to do. They are as follows:
- Are they a good ambassador for the University that employs them?
- Do they have their players’ best interests at heart?
- Are they running a clean program?
- Are they winning?
Let’s take a look at how well Mr. Fedora checked these essentials:
Was he a good ambassador for the University of North Carolina?
As you might have heard, Larry Fedora was not the most polished at the game of Public Relations. Somewhere in between his handling of the Tim Beckman hiring, his misogynist comments to a female sports journalist, and his bizarre axiom that America will be destroyed by changes to the rules of football, since our military is dominant due to many of our servicemen being former players, some among us might have realized that Larry might be operating in a different sphere of reality from the rest of us. These are the words of one who is either a verbal gaffe-machine or a strange mix of sexist athleto-facist (yes, I made that word up, but our late Coach made up the concept).
This was not improved when Coach Fedora admitted that he hadn’t been anywhere on the UNC campus and that he hadn’t been aware that there was an arboretum. Now, look: Not every coach is Roy Williams. Not every coach is an engaged alumnus of their university and quite a few coaches know football and little else. As Fedora himself said: “Football is my life and I have to protect it.” But if you’re going to dedicate your life to coaching the game you love, it would behoove yourself to be a bit better at it.
Do they have their players’ best interests at heart?
You know where this is going. But first, let’s give credit where credit is due: Larry Fedora’s players loved him. The tweets and outpouring of support from them upon the news that he had been fired demonstrated that, despite the last two woeful seasons, he still had a strong bond with many of them. That should not be ignored.
However, there is a vast difference between getting players to like you and truly having their best interests at heart. Fedora’s CTE comments have been chewed over by the writers of this site and by the Carolina family at length, so I won’t belabor the point. Suffice to say this: Larry Fedora’s first, second, and third instincts on the issue were to dismiss the study as inconclusive in order to preserve the style of football that he likes, despite the (at the very least) risks to the young men he’s been tasked with looking out for. You surprised that our recruiting is down this year?
Are they running a clean program?
Now look: I think that the NCAA’s rules about the selling of gear and the preservation of amateurism (aka Exploitation) of student athletes is as bogus as you do. We all know the argument, we don’t need to retread it. But, like it or not, rules are rules. Failing to abide by them isn’t protest, it’s carelessness with consequences.
The suspension of 13 UNC players, most of them important pieces to the team, at the beginning of the season was a clumsy act of negligence on the part of the coaching staff. Student athletes aren’t allowed to sell gear. Period. It’s not a fair rule, but it’s not a complicated one either. Every player on that team should have been made well aware of that. That 13 student athletes, many of them veterans, didn’t realize or didn’t appreciate this is, in at least some part on the coaching staff.
Now, in the grand scheme of things, these violations were misdemeanors, mere parking tickets compared to things going on at some other football programs. But NCAA violations, however minor, were the last thing anyone in Chapel Hill needed to be dealing with. Carolina prides itself on doing things the right way and that standard should be enforced by its football staff.
Are they winning?
As for the Coordinators and Position Coaches, we’re all familiar with the myriad issues that faced the Heels this year: The debacle at QB, the inability to stop a nosebleed on defense, the catastrophic playcalling, and the frustrating use of the running back corps.
Simply put, this season was NOT on the players. With competent coaching, this is a .500 team at least. This team should not have lost any more than 6 games this year. They have talent at almost every position, dynamic playmakers on offense, and plenty of veteran experience. The responsibility for this disaster of a season falls squarely on the coaching staff.
Final Season Grade: F