CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Larry Fedora accepted North Carolina’s head coaching position in December 2011 well aware of the scholarship reductions in his program’s immediate future. The fallout from the NCAA’s 2012 infractions report is finally coming to an end as Fedora enters his fifth season at UNC.
When Fedora was approved by the Board of Trustees on Dec. 9, 2011, the university had already self-imposed a three-year reduction of three scholarships per year. The NCAA increased that penalty to 15 scholarships over a three-year period. Due to the March 2012 penalty announcement, UNC had the option to push the first year of sanctions back until 2013. Fedora, however, elected to start immediately. No reason to delay the inevitable.
UNC’s limits of 20 initial counters (enrollments per year) and 80 total counters (per team) came to an end following the 2014 recruiting class. The Tar Heels elected not to sign a full class in February 2015, due in part to the offseason defensive staff change that led to Vic Koenning’s departure and Gene Chizik’s arrival.
Fedora signed his first full class at Chapel Hill in February, and while those 26 signees were not enough to max out UNC’s total roster allotment of 85, they moved the program one step closer to reaching that goal.
“We’re probably one class away - with the ’17 class getting in here - before we’ll be back to full scholarships,” Fedora told reporters on Saturday.
The NCAA turmoil was on display early in Fedora’s tenure as UNC relied on youth and inexperience at critical positions, evidenced by the 13-13 record over the 2013-14 seasons. Those hardships turned into 2015’s historic 11-3 record due to a veteran cast on both sides of the ball. That trend will continue not only this fall, but for years to come, according to Fedora.
“I think we’ve got a very solid foundation,” Fedora said. “We’ve got a little more experience and age on the offensive side of the ball right now than we do on the defensive side. I think we have three seniors on the entire defense, so we’re young over there. We’ve got some talent over there to build with. I think a very solid foundation has been set, and I think we’ll just get better and better from here.”
UNC returns 17 starters, including specialists, and 41 letter winners. The Tar Heels’ preseason two-deep depth chart includes 25 upperclassmen.