UNC HC Larry Fedora Defends ACC Officiating

The UNC head coach provided his insight into fallout from Saturday's Duke-Miami last-second play.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Amid controversy surrounding ACC football officiating, UNC head coach Larry Fedora reinforced his confidence in the league’s officials.

“I think we have good officials in this league,” Fedora said during his weekly press conference on Monday. “I don’t care what league you’re in, and I’ve been in a bunch of them, you have mistakes that are made in officiating in every single game…

“I don’t think there’s a problem with the credibility of our league and our officials.”  

Yet another ACC officiating gaffe at the end of Saturday’s Duke-Miami game drew national criticism. The Hurricanes scored on a kickoff return that included eight laterals as time expired. On Sunday, the ACC announced two-game suspensions for the entire officiating crew due to m four errors in the final play of the game.

“The quality of our officiating program is of the highest importance to the league and its schools, and the last play of the game was not handled appropriately,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said in a statement.

UNC was involved in an officiating controversy two weeks ago following its 50-14 win over Wake Forest. Specialist Ryan Switzer was robbed of a 70-yard punt return after officials determined he had given an invalid signal before catching the ball, yet video replay confirmed that no such signal had occurred. Even so, the ACC office stood by the call.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Fxkb_SFZxU That particular call didn’t receive the national criticism that Saturday’s blunder elicited, due to the margin of victory and timing of the error.

“That just happened to be the last play of the game, but every call in a game affects the outcome of the game,” Fedora said. “Whether it happened on the first play, and it negated a touchdown or gave somebody a touchdown, it still affects the outcome of the game. Believe me, the officials want to get it right; they don’t want it to be wrong. They take a lot of pride in what they do.”

College games in each of the past three weeks have been decided on last-second special teams plays. UNC works on similar gadget plays weekly to familiarize the players with how to handle such frantic situations.  

“We know what’s going to be called on the plus side of the 50, or inside the 40, or inside the 30, or inside the 20; we have last play scenarios that our guys rep every week,” Fedora said. “So we do that every week with our guys. If we get into a position where it’s the last play of the game, even if they didn’t see the signal, they’re going to know what we’re calling and what they’re doing and what has to happen.”

Opening Statement:
“Our team is excited about another Coastal Division game. We’ve got a really good Duke team coming into our stadium, and our kids are busily preparing for this Saturday, and we’ve got to use all of our time as wisely as possible and make sure we utilize every bit of it to prepare for this game, so we’re looking forward to it.”  

Did you watch the end of the Duke/Miami game?
“I did see it. I did see the end of the game. I was actually watching it at the end, I didn’t see the whole game, but I was watching the end of the game. College football’s a crazy game. Anything can happen. We talk about it all the time, that it’s not over til it’s over, and it’s just one of those things that happened.”

What options does a coach have at the end of a game like that?
“You hope you’re going to get some communication from the officials, but that’s about it. You can challenge things, you get one challenge, but I think the main thing you want is communication, so you can be aware of what they’re thinking.”

What’s the status of Brian Walker?
“He’s no longer with our football team.”

Did he leave on his own or did you dismiss him?
“No, he left on his own.”

When did that happen?

“Wednesday of last week… I really don’t know exactly. It would be better for you to talk to Brian Walker to get the details. I think he’s interested in finding a place where maybe he can get more playing time.”

When’s the last time you talked to him?
“Friday, once we got back.”

How would you characterize how concerned you are with the punting game?
“I’m concerned any time we have a breakdown. When you have a breakdown in that phase of your special teams, it’s pretty critical. Most times when you get a punt blocked, you’re not going to win a football game. So, yeah, I was very concerned about it, we had a breakdown in the protection, and our operation time wasn’t very good. They didn’t do anything special, they just brought two guys, so it’s not like it was some kind of big block scheme or something, it was just a breakdown on our part, all the way around, and that is very concerning.”

What does this game against Duke mean to you?
“It’s important. It’s a rivalry game, you know? It’s a cross-town rival, 10 miles away from us. They’re in our division, and they’re in the state. To be Coastal Division champs, state champs, and for how it affects recruiting, it’s very important to us in the state. Very important.”

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