Evaluating College Football’s First-Year Head Coaches: Larry Fedora

(Fedora & Renner – Photo Courtesy – USAToday Sports/Jamie Rhodes)

Believe it or not the University of North Carolina was once a football school. No, seriously, it's true – granted it was back in the 1940's and all – but still at some point in history the Tar Heel faithful actually cared more about football than basketball and with the hiring of Larry Fedora in December of 2011 UNC was hoping to find a leader of the football program that would make this at least a basketball and a football school all at the same time. 

Things wouldn't exactly be easy for whomever took over in Chapel Hill because they would be facing NCAA sanctions thanks to the end of the Butch Davis era and the dreaded "lack of institutional control." So, that meant no postseason and a lack of scholarships available. But, after some big time success at one of the better small-school programs in Southern Mississippi Fedora's name was high on a lot of coaching searches for the 2012 season. 

He ended up at North Carolina and was tasked with turning around a program that hadn't had a winning record in the ACC since all the way back in 2004 and even more astonishingly hadn't beaten rival NC State since 2006. 

So, there was plenty to make over at UNC, but how did Fedora fare in year one? 

Well, today we continue our look at the first-year head coaching jobs with a look at Fedora's job in year one.

What Went Right: One of the more interesting things about Fedora is that heading into his 1st season in Chapel Hill he had never had a losing season as a head coach. Well, in year one at the helm of the Tar Heels that streak wouldn't stop as UNC went 8-4 overall and went 5-3 in the ACC. 

Remember this was a program that hadn't had a winning season in the ACC since 2004? Gone thanks to a 5-3 record in conference play.

Remember this was a program that hadn't beaten rival NC State since 2006? Gone with a 43-35 win over the Wolfpack.

Had the Tar Heels not been on probation from the NCAA they actually would've played in the ACC Championship game as they tied with Miami and Georgia Tech for the ACC Coastal division championship and would've won it because of a tie-breaking win over 4th place Va Tech. 

Alas, that darn postseason ban kept them out of the championship game, but it's hard to say that year one was anything but a success for Fedora. They scored a ton of points on offense (40.6) and played pretty good defense overall as well (25.7). Offensive scoring went up about 12 points a game and defensively the difference was negligible at best, allowing only about 2 points per game more. 

Names like Giovani Bernard and Bryn Renner became pretty close to household names around college football circles and for good reason. Bernard rushed for 1,228 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 6.7 yards a carry while Rrenner passed for 3,356 yards with 28 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions. 

It's hard to say most things didn't go right, especially coming off a 6-6 season in Butch Davis' last season in Chapel Hill.

What Went Wrong: While a lot went right this team struggled to win road games, going 2-3 on the road. In fact the road losses were to some puzzling teams. The three losses on the road were to Wake Forest, Louisville, and Duke. 

O.k., losing to Lousiville can be forgiven, after all they kicked the crap out of Florida in the Sugar Bowl and the Gators were supposedly the 2nd best team in the vaunted SEC… but, the other two losses?

It's never good when you are UNC and you are losing to Duke – not in basketball, but seriously not good in football. So, Fedora better get that corrected. Wake Forest has at least been a mildly successful program over the past decade or so and a loss to them isn't the end of the world. 

Either way Fedora needs to figure out a way to win those types of games on the road if they want to compete for the ACC Coastal division on an annual basis. 

Where Do Things Go From Here: Fedora was courted by Tennessee in the offseason, but turned that job down and chose to stick where he and his family were happy and that was at UNC. This has been a program just waiting to become a football power for some time. There is a ton of talent right in it's backyards and surounding states like Virginia and South Carolina. 

Can Fedora be the one to bring this team back to national promenence and keep it there? Names like Mack Brown and Butch Davis were able to get the program up, but never keep it up and that's the challenge Fedora faces if he wants to stay at UNC for the long haul. 

Larry Fedora First-Year Coaching Grade: B – 


Previous Evaluations

Jim Mora, UCLA

Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Bill O’Brien, Penn State

Charlie Weis, Kansas

Tim Beckman, Illinois

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Rich Rodriguez, Arizona

Mike Leach, Washington State

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a contributor to The Comeback as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10. He also is a member of the FWAA and has been covering college sports since 2011. Andy is an avid soccer fan and runs the Celtic FC site The Celtic Bhoys. If he's not writing about sports, you can find him enjoying them in front of the TV with a good beer!