UNC Football Begins 'New Era' With Larry Fedora
Larry Fedora. Photo courtesy UNC-Chapel Hill Athletic Dept. UNC-Chapel Hill introduced its new football coach today. Larry Fedora was officially hired after the UNC Board of Trustees approved his contract this morning. Fedora has coached Southern Miss for the last four years. UNC's new athletic director, Bubba Cunningham, didn't have much time before college football hiring season was in full swing. He's been on the job less than a month. "We feel Larry Fedora is the coach who can unify our fan base and move us successfully into the future," Cunningham said. Fedora is 49 years old, and he's finishing up his fourth year as head coach at Southern Miss. It was his most successful one - his Golden Eagles are 11 and 2 and won the Conference USA championship. But as he stepped to the podium Friday, he was oozing excitement for his new job. "Today is the first day of a new era of UNC football," Fedora said. "You better buckle your seatbelts, and you better hold on because it's going to be a wild ride." Attack was a big buzzword, and military history was a theme. "General George S. Patton said this: 'Instead of waiting to see what might develop, attack constantly, vigorously and viciously. Never let up. Never stop. Always attack,'" Fedora said. Fedora takes over a program that already punished itself and is waiting to hear if the NCAA will punish it more. UNC vacated all its wins from 2008 and 2009, cut scholarships, paid a $50 thousand fine and put itself on probation. That's after NCAA investigations that began last year found some players cheated in classes and took gifts from agents. That was under former coach Butch Davis, who was fired in late July. The university had to pay $2.7 million to buy out Davis' contract. Now the university will pay Fedora $1.7 million a year, plus bonuses if the team does well. In Fedora, UNC is getting a coach who has high standards for his coaches and players, says John Cox, the play-by-play announcer for Southern Miss football. "That's been one of the impressive things during his four years at Southern Miss," Cox said. "He holds the players accountable in the classroom to do the things they need to do to be on course to graduate. He holds them accountable for what they do away from the football program." A spokesman for Southern Miss says there hasn't been any trouble with the NCAA while Fedora was there, and the football team's graduation rate released earlier this year was 78 percent. Fedora got the job over UNC's interim coach, Everett Withers, a graduate of West Charlotte High School. He's led the Tar Heels to a 7 and 5 record. But average attendance at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill was down more than 2,000 compared to last year. And that's with about 3,000 more seats as part of a $70 million expansion. UNC's booster club, the Rams Club, raised all the money for the expansion. John Montgomery is executive director. He says Fedora will help fill seats. "You can see his energy, his passion, his pride, his love for his players," Montgomery said. "So I think that attendance will be up. I think the interest level will really soar beyond where it has been." Fedora's last game with Southern Miss will be its bowl game later this month. Everett Withers will coach the Tar Heels in the Independence Bowl on December 26 against Missouri. It's the fourth straight year they've made it to a bowl game. But as the Butch Davis era showed, success on the field is meaningless to UNC's administration if it comes with trouble off of it.