Fedora: UNC players ‘can’t hide’ from expectations
The North Carolina football team is in the midst of its winter conditioning program, which it calls Blue Dawn.
After every 6 a.m. workout, the nine UNC coaches get together and gives each player’s effort either thumb's up or thumb's down. If a player gets at least eight positive reviews, he gets to wear a blue jersey the next day. Seven thumbs up means a white jersey. Six or fewer means a red jersey, the color of rival N.C. State.
When players get in their stretching lines the next morning, their effort level is clear.
“Everybody on that team knows what you did the day before and what your commitment to the team’s goals was,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said. “And of course I’m there to point out all the guys wearing red and I have a few choice words for all of them, but I tell them if you don’t like what you’re wearing then change it.”
On Wednesday, Fedora told the Raleigh Sports Club that the purpose of this exercise was to create a winning culture at UNC by setting high expectations and then holding his players accountable.
Winter conditioning is the first of five phases in the football season — followed by spring ball, summer workouts, fall camp and the season — and the public accountability will continue after Blue Dawn.
Fedora said that after every phase, each player again is graded on his level of commitment — compelled, committed, compliant, existent, reluctant or resistant — and the players will have their commitment level written down next to the nameplate on their lockers.
“You can’t hide,” Fedora said. “Each and every day, you build your résumé.”
In the end, Fedora said that if the players work hard enough, the wins will come.
“Our guys understand you have to show up consistently, you have to show up with a great attitude, you have to do it with a burning desire to be successful, you have to be willing to pay the price, and you gotta have integrity and discipline,” Fedora said. “If you do those things, if you have those things, you will be successful. There’s no doubt about it.”
The second-year coach touched on a number of other topics during his 35-minute talk.
— He reiterated that backup quarterback Marquise Williams, who is not enrolled at UNC this semester, still is part of the team and will be back in school this summer.
— Fedora called junior A.J. Blue, the frontrunner to replace NFL-bound Giovani Bernard as the team’s starting running back, the emotional leader of the offense.
— Fedora said the team has hired a full-time chaplain, Mitch Mason, who serves as a mentor and spiritual advisor.
— UNC professor Kevin Guskiewicz, a leading expert on concussion testing, found that the Tar Heels suffered seven concussions last season.
— Fedora is against conference realignment, saying it has eliminated traditional rivalries for schools such as West Virginia and Texas A&M. “I think in the long run it’s going to hurt college football,” Fedora said. “We’re trading TV revenue for what’s in the stands, because those fans aren’t going to be able to travel to all those places. I think it’s unfortunate, I really do.”
— Finally, Fedora closed his talk by taking a good-natured shot at the N.C. State fans in attendance: “I looked it up on Wikipedia and it said North Carolina’s known as the Tar Heel State,” he said.