Larry Fedora guides North Carolina through turmoil

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Detroit — Larry Fedora has made North Carolina fun to watch since taking over for Butch Davis prior to the 2012 season.

Fedora, 52, took over the program during a troubled time when Davis was fired and the Tar Heels put on probation and banned from 2012 postseason play by the NCAA for improper benefits and academic misconduct.

UNC had already imposed several penalties, including vacating 16 wins during the 2008 and '09 seasons while reducing nine scholarships over three academic years and putting itself on two years of probation.

It looks like Fedora was the perfect man to lead the Tar Heels out of the mud and into an exciting time period. He told fans during his introductory press conference that if they went to the concession stand they could miss a TD, and he has lived up to that comment.

Fedora has helped the Tar Heels set numerous school records for impressive play on offense, including 35 records during his inaugural season in 2012 when they were 8-4 and would have been in the ACC championship game if not for the ban.

In 2013, the Tar Heels won six of their last seven games while setting 20 more records, including an 80-20 win over Old Dominion when they piled up 721 total yards, led by Marquise Williams' five first-half TD passes.

"We're a one-back, no-huddle, spread football team that is multi-tempo," said Fedora, who has never had a losing season in seven years as a head coach. "We're going to dictate the tempo of the game throughout the game, and we fly around and we're pretty high scoring."

Fedora was hired in by athletic director Bubba Cunningham, who also had just arrived at UNC from Tulsa. Cunningham, a native of Flint, liked what Fedora had accomplished at Southern Mississippi, which included a 12-2 record and top 20 ranking in 2011, including a 49-28 win over No. 6 Houston in the Conference USA championship game.

Fedora was offensive coordinator under Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State from 2005-07, helping the Cowboys average 35 points during the '06 season, including a bowl win over Alabama, before moving on to Southern Mississippi, where he guided the Golden Eagles to a school-record 633 total yards in his debut, a 51-21 win over Louisiana-Lafayette.

There's no doubt the Tar Heels can put up some big numbers. The only problem, and it's a big one, is they have trouble stopping teams, allowing 39 points per game.

Fedora plans to take advantage of the extra practice the bowl game gives the Tar Heels to prepare for the future as much as the game itself.

"There's no doubt it will benefit us," said Fedora of the added practices. "We've got six scholarship seniors on this football team, so we're a very young football team. We need every opportunity we can, so for us it's almost like having another spring practice. Our guys will definitely benefit from it."

And Fedora keeps in touch with his former players while also focusing on the present. He said Tar Heels former tight end and Lions rookie Eric Ebron is thrilled UNC will be playing at Ford Field.

"He's probably more excited than anybody that we're coming up here," said Fedora of Ebron, pointing out he's engaged to UNC basketball player Brittany Rountree.

"We have a lot of guys that are very tight with Eric, and if you know anything about Eric, Eric's full of personality, and so he's very tight with a lot of guys on the team. To be able to come here and play in the Lions' stadium, it just made it that much sweeter for our guys."