1-on-1 with UNC coach Larry Fedora: Building Toward Bigger Goals

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- In the third and final installment from Inside Carolina's one-on-one interview with Larry Fedora, the Tar Heel head coach looks toward bigger program goals.

This is the third time in the last four years you are going to open the season with a Southeastern Conference team. How do those experiences help you going into the Georgia game; is it a cumulative type of thing?

Sure it is, and also, everybody is talking about it, so there is a positive buzz about it all offseason and all spring. That helps your players. That helps your recruiting, because people are talking about North Carolina going up against Georgia, year round people are talking about that, so that is good for you, that is really good for you.

And, that is just encouragement and motivation for your players, to help them through the grind of the off-season and the summer; they know what’s coming, that we’re going to have to line up down there in (however many) days, and they’ve got to be ready, so it just gives them a little extra motivation when they’re out there on the practice field, in the weight room, running and all those things.

Also, on a national level, it just gives you more recognition, because you’re going to be playing in a prime time spot, on Labor Day weekend, and everybody gets a chance to see how we’ll do against an extremely good program.

Along those same lines, the ACC title game last year was probably the biggest stage UNC football has been on, well, let’s just say for a very long time. Having that kind of experience, and a bunch of those kids are back, how do you think it helps the players prepare mentally for other big games?

I think it helps more for the younger kids. The way we run things, every game is exactly the same for us. Everything we do practice-wise, and in preparation, every game is a big game. It doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks…

…but how do the kids shut that out?

If you think about it, we practice with noise every single day, so noise is never a factor for us, for our guys. They don’t ever get into a game and go, 'Oh my gosh, it’s loud out there,' that’s something they do every single day, it is part of their DNA now. The media and the fans, everybody on the outside, they get into the hype. 'Wow, it is a really big game.' Our players? We practice exactly the same. It’s the same amount of live periods on Monday, they know what we’re going to do on Tuesday, they know what we’re going to do on Wednesday; we don’t practice a little bit longer because it is a big game. It’s exactly the same.

Because if we prepare the way we prepare, we’re going to be good enough to win. We don’t have to become superhuman to win a game like that, we’ve just got to do what we do. Go out and execute, play the game the way we play it, don’t turn the football over, create some turnovers, play good special teams, and you can win.

Fan attendance in college football is down across the board…

…yeah, it is easier to watch on TV… every game is on TV…

…every game is on TV, HD TV, 4K TV, curved TV’s, tons of different camera angles. It doesn’t just affect North Carolina, but North Carolina probably has been affected in addition, particularly at the beginning of your tenure, because of the whole NCAA situation. What can UNC do differently, other than to just encourage people to show up? Are there steps that can increase fan attendance?

First of all, my job, our job as a coaching staff, is to put a product on the field that people are excited about seeing. The university can only do so much, with parking, and getting in and out of the stadium, and all of those procedural things that they can do to make it convenient for people to attend.

But it still comes back to the passion of your fans; that’s what it comes down to. The fans can make game day whatever they want it to be. But they can’t just wish that was the way it was going to be, they have to be involved and they have to make it that way. It really boils down to the fans themselves. The university can only do so much, my job is to put a product on the field that is exciting and that they want to see, and then the passion of the fans has to do the rest and they can create whatever kind of atmosphere they want to create.

I think it has improved every year we’ve been here. One, it is a process, and I think the fans were sort of beat up when we got here, a lot of people were beat up over the four years since we’ve been here and all the things that happened, and some of them were turned off by the situation, some were just tired of it, and now some of them are starting to come back.

They are starting to get excited. They are starting to get excited about what’s on the field, and the things we are doing, because we are doing things the right way. I think it is going to change. Anytime you try and change a culture, it doesn’t happen overnight.

You can look out across the country and see the teams that have done it. A great example is TCU – it didn’t just happen [snaps his fingers]. A great example is TCU, look where they were 10 years ago, 12 years ago, look where they are now. It has taken that length to time to get to where they are, and they’ve done some great things. They put a product on the field that was exciting, the administration built a new stadium for them and made a commitment to the program, and now the fans are becoming passionate about it and they are showing up. That’s how it’s done.

To piece together a couple of things we’ve been talking about, you said this [UNC] is the longest you’ve been anywhere, and you talked about the time it took for TCU to get to where it is. Is there any special allure to staying at a place for a long time, and seeing it…

…seeing it from start to finish, and reaching all the goals that you have at a place where it has never been done? Yeah, that makes it really special, that is the allure. That’s why I came to Chapel Hill in the first place, and now that the administration, Carol [Folt] and Bubba [Cunningham], they have committed to me and the staff, and I think they are happy with the job that we’re doing, and excited about where we are going in the future.

It just makes it that much better. You have the opportunity to continue to do what you think is right, and keep building on the philosophy and foundation that you’ve built. And I really believe the sky is the limit here, it really is.



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