RALEIGH North Carolina coach Larry Fedora gave a talk on Wednesday at a meeting of the Raleigh Sports Club. Fedora opened by telling the audience about his background – of growing up in the country in College Station, Texas, with three brothers, of learning how to work from his father, a barber who still cuts hair, and of how his background shaped him into the man he is.
“I have a blue collar attitude,” Fedora told the crowd “Nobody owes you a thing.”
Here’s what he said about a variety of topics:
• Fedora spent a good bit of time talking about his plans to “change the culture” at UNC. He said that’s why he’s in Chapel Hill – to change the culture of the UNC football program. Mostly, he talked about holding players accountable. Right now, UNC is finishing up its “Blue Dawn” winter conditioning workouts. The team has been divided into eight groups that rotate through different conditioning stations. The drills start at 6 in the morning.
Every day there’s a workout, the players are graded by each staff member. Each player gets a thumbs up, thumb sideways (for a neutral grade) or a thumbs down. If eight of the nine coaches give a player a thumbs up, “that means you competed like a champion,” Fedora said. In that case, you get to wear a blue shirt during the next workout. Do poorly, though, and you have to wear a red shirt. “No offense to anyone wearing red,” Fedora said.
“Obviously, the goal is to have as many people in blue as possible.”
• Spring practice starts next week – next Wednesday, to be exact. Spring practice, Fedora said, is just another phase to UNC’s year-long program. The other phases: Preseason practice. The season. Winter conditioning. Summer workouts. At the end of each phase, each player is given a “level of commitment,” Fedora said. Those levels: Compelled, committed, compliant, existent, reluctant. “If you don’t like what you see,” Fedora said, “then change it.”
Fedora said UNC “will have success. Because our guys are starting to understand” what they need to do to be successful. He said the Tar Heels will win championships.
• Fedora talked for a bit about recruiting, and about the importance of keeping in-state prospects in the state of North Carolina. You’ve heard him talk about this more than a few times since he became UNC’s coach.
Today he said: “We’re going to win with players from the state of north Carolina … I wish all the kids in the state, no matter where they go to school, would stay in the state of North Carolina. Imagine how great college football would be in the state of North Carolina if kids stayed here, and stopped leaving the state?”
Imagine, indeed. State schools would have a chance to be pretty good if kids never left. Problem is, a lot of the best prospects in North Carolina have always left the state. Mack Brown had success keeping them home when he was coaching at UNC. Since then, though, no one has come all that close to building the proverbial fence around North Carolina and keeping kids home. Does that change under Fedora?
• As you might expect, Fedora had some fun with the “our State” slogan that N.C. State has adopted. Fedora said he was honored to be coaching at UNC “in a state that has been, and as I understand it always will be, the Tar Heel state.” That drew some laughs and some groans from the crowd, which featured good mix of N.C. State and UNC fans.
• Someone asked Fedora about the time constraints for head coaches, and how much they’re limited during the off-season. I wasn’t quite sure of the limits myself, so here they are: During the season, a head coach has 20 hours per week with his players. That includes three hours reserved for games. Head coaches are allowed no more than four hours in a single day with their players. In the spring, you have 15 practices – three in shorts, the rest can be in pads. From that point on, Fedora said, “you really can’t do anything as a coach with them.”
He brought up the fact that it’s not uncommon to read about college football players, in general, getting arrested in the offseason. Fedora said that happens “because the coaches aren’t with them every day.”
• Fedora said A.J. Blue has become the “emotional leader” of the offense so far in the offseason.
• A member of the audience asked Fedora about the academic issues, and whether he will monitor the classes football players sign up for to make sure they’re legitimate courses. Fedora responded with a question: “How many of you, when you stepped into your class and found out there wouldn’t be any tests, jumped up and said, ‘I’m not taking this class.”
The crowd laughed.
“Raise your hand,” Fedora said. “I’m still waiting for you to raise your hand.”
Fedora went on and said the problems are “being taken care of.”
“Our kids are doing whatever they’re being asked to do,” he said.
• Last thing: Fedora’s no fan of all the conference realignment going on in college sports.
“I’m not a big proponent of it,” he said. “I believe what makes college football special are the regional rivalries we have. The rivalries are what make it. …
“I don’t see that it makes any sense that West Virginia has to go all the way to Texas and Oklahoma [to play conference games] … it’s all based on money. We all know that. I think in the long run, it’s going to hurt college football …
“We’re trading TV revenue for butts in the stands.”
I agree with pretty much all that.
“I think it’s unfortunate,” Fedora said. “I really do.”
But, he added, “Whether I like it or not, I better get ready for it.”
So there you have it.