This is a monumental opportunity for Larry Fedora.
If you’re not familiar with the former Southern Miss coach, he has a chance to impress you now as North Carolina’s new head coach.
Fedora will inherit a talented young quarterback in Bryn Renner. He will inherit a first-team all-conference running back in Giovani Bernard. And he will also inherit a program that needs to finally, gleefully, put a long, drawn-out NCAA investigation behind it.
While the jury is still out on this hire, it was a much-needed fresh start to a stale storyline in Chapel Hill. Whether or not North Carolina receives further sanctions from the NCAA remains to be seen, but if Fedora can handle a possible loss of scholarships and some significant departures from this year’s defense, he has a chance to quickly become one of the country’s name-brand coaches.
Despite its eight-win ceiling in recent years, North Carolina has proven to be one of the ACC’s most talent-rich programs. Former coach Butch Davis and his staff did an excellent job of proving that championship-caliber athletes can be lured to Chapel Hill, and the program can be a national title contender. Had the NCAA investigation not erupted two seasons ago before UNC was scheduled to play LSU, the Tar Heels undoubtedly could have been one of the best teams in the country that year had everyone remained eligible. At the very least, UNC should have been playing for the Coastal Division title by now.
Expectations for Fedora should be that high. There’s one big difference, though, between where he’s coming from and where he’s heading. At Southern Miss, he walked into a winning situation. The Golden Eagles have now had 18 straight winning seasons, trailing only Florida, Florida State and Virginia Tech. Go figure. This year will mark their 10th straight bowl appearance. He was also an assistant at Oklahoma State and Florida. Fedora’s numbers and accomplishments have been impressive at every stop. He has earned a reputation as an offensive-minded coach, and that matches well with Carolina’s strengths in 2012.
Not every coach, though, would take a chance on this job or want it. UNC has already put itself on a two-year probation, cut three scholarships for three seasons, and vacated wins from the 2008 and 2009 seasons. That doesn’t mean, though, that it’s the end of the penalties for the Tar Heels. The NCAA has yet to weigh in. Further losses of scholarships and a bowl ban are still possibilities.
The future of North Carolina’s program is still in flux, but university officials finally answered the most important question: Who will lead them through it. There is plenty already in place for Fedora to build upon, but how he navigates through the weeds that were left behind will determine his success.