North Carolina fired coach Larry Fedora on Sunday following a second straight nine-loss season.
"We appreciate all that Larry Fedora has done for us over the last seven years -- coming to Carolina in the midst of an NCAA case and bringing stability to our football program when we most needed it," athletic director Bubba Cunningham said in a statement.
"Despite injuries, despite setbacks and hardships, Larry never made excuses. He focused his teams on overcoming adversity, and I deeply respect the way he persevered and led our program each day with integrity through some tough times. This was not an easy decision because of the deep affinity I have for Larry. It simply is time to take our football program in a new direction."
Fedora's current contract was set to run through 2022, and he has a buyout of just over $12 million (which is subject to mitigation should he find another coaching job).
"It has been a great honor to be a part of this incredible University," Fedora later said in a statement. "I am extremely disappointed that I will no longer be UNC's head football coach -- I hate that it had to end this way.
"The last two seasons have been challenging and heartbreaking. The results are not what we wanted and it has been frustrating for everyone involved -- coaches, athletes, fans and supporters alike. The results did not reflect the commitment and hard work put in by our players and staff. The players never quit -- ever. That speaks to the character of this team and this great University.
"I wanted the opportunity to fix this," the statement continued. "I wanted to make the changes necessary to win again. I also understand this business. I understand that you don't always get the time you want to turn things around. I respect the administration's position and understand their actions."
Fedora went 45-43 in his seven years in charge and took the Tar Heels to four straight bowl appearances, but their second consecutive season at the bottom of the ACC Coastal Division resulted in his departure.
UNC finished 2-9 (1-7 in conference play) after falling to NC State 34-28 in overtime Saturday. The team's only wins this season came against Pittsburgh on Sept. 22 and Western Carolina on Nov. 17.
Fedora took over the team in 2012, while the program was facing NCAA sanctions for improper benefits and academic fraud that led to the firing of coach Butch Davis. The Tar Heels went 8-4 in Fedora's first year while under a postseason ban.
The pinnacle of Fedora's time at Chapel Hill came in 2015, when UNC went 8-0 in ACC play before losing to top-ranked Clemson in the conference's championship game and finishing 15th in both the AP and coaches polls.
Fedora made waves last July in the ACC kickoff event by questioning studies about CTE and stating that "football is under attack."
Among the top candidates to replace Fedora are Memphis' Mike Norvell (who worked with Cunningham at Tulsa), Troy's Neal Brown, Appalachian State's Scott Satterfield, North Texas' Seth Littrell (a former UNC offensive coordinator), Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, Maryland interim coach Matt Canada, Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and former Texas coach and current ESPN analyst Mack Brown (who coached at UNC from 1988 to '97).