HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- Hoping for a boost on offense and at
the box office, Southern Miss hired Oklahoma State offensive
coordinator Larry Fedora as its new coach Wednesday.
Fedora replaces Jeff Bower, who was forced to resign last month
after 17 years and 119 wins. He told about 1,000 fans, media and
pep band members that he believes he can squeeze more from a
program that's already a proven winner and Conference USA contender
"I believe we can make the nation realize there's a force to
reckoned with here at Southern Miss," Fedora said between
Fedora had been considered a front-runner for the job after he
visited the Southern Miss campus last week.
The 45-year-old just completed his third season as the Cowboys'
offensive coordinator and has 16 years of college coaching
experience, including a stint as Florida's offensive coordinator.
This will be his first job as head coach.
Athletic Director Richard Giannini said he was looking for a way
to fill seats when he began searching for Bower's replacement.
Fedora's single-back, no-huddle offense may be the solution. The
Cowboys averaged 33.4 points and 484.1 yards per game on the way to
a 6-6 record and an Insight Bowl berth.
Oklahoma State had the nation's seventh-ranked rushing offense
at 245.3 yards per game, and overall the offense was ranked ninth.
"We wanted someone that had incredible energy and incredible
passion for the game of football and tremendous passion to be
successful," Giannini said. "And there's no question we got the
No. 1 guy. From Day 1, he was on our list."
Giannini said he conducted dozens of interviews in the 16 days
since Bower resigned under pressure Nov. 26.
Fedora's hiring must still be approved by the state College
Board. Giannini said Fedora's contract will be for four years. He
did not want to discuss financial terms until the board approved
the contract, but said Fedora will be paid more than the $550,000
in public and private money Bower earned.
Fedora was the offensive coordinator at Florida in 2004 and has
coached at Air Force, Baylor, Middle Tennessee State and Austin
College, where he went to school.
Under Fedora in 2004, the Gators led the Southeastern Conference
in six offensive categories and the school was the first to feature
the conference's top passer, rusher, receiver and total offense
leader in the same season.
"Larry is one of the best coaches I have worked with in my time
in college football," said Illinois coach Ron Zook, who was
Fedora's boss at Florida. "He has a great offensive mind and the
ability to motivate his players."
Fedora will be under pressure to win immediately. Bower had 14
straight winning seasons and bowl appearances in 10 of the last 11
years. The team was favored to win the C-USA title after finishing
second last season. But the Golden Eagles stumbled to a 2-3 start
and needed two wins at the end of the year to extend both streaks.
Bower came to Southern Miss as a transfer quarterback in 1972
and was a player and assistant coach with the school for 12 seasons
before taking over in 1990 as head coach after serving a year as
Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator. His last game as coach will
be the Papajohns.com Bowl on Dec. 22 in Birmingham, Ala., against
No. 20 Cincinnati.
Then it's Fedora's turn.
"I knew this was just going to be a golden opportunity,"
Fedora said. "I think Southern Miss is getting ready to explode
and I wanted to be the next guy here to just push it over the