Larry Fedora kicked off the AFCA convention Sunday evening by speaking to a ball room of high school coaches. Fedora outlined a number of aspects of his program and why he does them, but what I found most interesting was his commitment to accountability.
(By the way, someone should give this man a medal -- or at least a cup of coffee. He was in San Antonio Sunday, flew to Bristol Monday for ESPN2's Film Room show for the national championship, then back in San Antonio Wednesday.)
Fedora was brought to North Carolina after a 34-19 run at Southern Miss when the Tar Heels' program received its own bit of accountability in the form of NCAA sanctions stemming from the Butch Davis era. The Heels are fully through the NCAA's penalties now, but Fedora is apparently still waging the battle with the local media.
Needless to say, a program running afoul of NCAA rules had accountability issues inside its own locker room. Fedora fixed that by removing dark areas within the program. "I hate hiding places," he said. During the off-season Fedora splits the roster into eight teams, which are drafted by the captains of each team. The entire roster is drafted, meaning some players start to feel pretty lonely by the time the draft hits the 13th and 14th rounds. "This competition has nothing to do with physical ability," Fedora said. "We're trying to build team chemistry. It's bowling, beach volleyball, paintball. We do a home run hitting contest. We deduct points when a guy turns in a paper late or gets a parking ticket. "When it gets down to the last two rounds and everybody else is standing with their team, I stand up and explain to them why they are where they are. Their teammates are saying, 'I can't count on you.' "If there are a bunch of starters in that group, we're in trouble," Fedora added. North Carolina's 2015 team, apparently, didn't have that problem. The Heels rose from eight, seven and six wins to an 11-3 mark with an ACC Coastal Division championship. Accountability extends beyond the off-season, though. In fact, players are reminded of their standing within the program every day they walk into the locker room. Meet the Commitment Continuum. One of those labels adorns every player's locker for not only himself to see, but his teammates, coaches, recruits and NFL scouts to see. Like he said, there's nowhere to hide in Fedora's program. Other notes:
- Like nearly all of his peers, Fedora wasn't satisfied with the work ethic of the team he inherited in 2012, so he had the equipment staff buy mechanics' shirts with name tags and all. They were a hit. They also led to an unlikely retweet for your humble reporter.
- Fedora took time at the opening of his hour-long talk to mention every head coach he either played for or coached under. Most thank a handful of former coaches, but I've never seen it done to Fedora's extent.
- Fedora swept out at Baylor after head coach Chuck Reedy was fired following a 4-7 season in 1996. While on the job hunt in the winter of 1997, Fedora taped this saying to his bathroom mirror and has said it every morning since: "It's going to be a great day. I cannot fail. I can only learn and grow."