CHAPEL HILL — The last place any coach wants to be just three weeks before the start of a new season is any place that separates him from his players and their preparation.
But that’s where North Carolina’s Larry Fedora will be on Wednesday.
Instead of being in Chapel Hill getting his football team ready for its opening game against California on Sept. 2, Fedora will be traveling to Nashville to appear before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions.
Fedora, along with men’s basketball coach Roy Williams and women’s coach Sylvia Hatchell, will be among those representing the Tar Heels as they defend themselves against five major allegations involving UNC’s African and Afro-American studies department.
The case is so complex that the NCAA has allocated two days for the hearings..
As much of an inconvenience as the unplanned trip will be for a coach working to rebuild an offense decimated by graduation and early departures to the NFL, it might have been worse for Fedora had Wednesday not already been scheduled as a day off from preseason camp.
“It was fortunate that I had already planned that the guys were going to be off on the 16th,” Fedora said last week at his team’s media day event. “It just happened that way. We have a practice on the 17th and we’re not going to change that. Whether I’m here or not, the staff will handle it and they’ll do a great job.”
Fedora said that it was only a coincidence that his appearance before the Committee on Infractions fell on a day off from from practice, since he and his staff set their camp schedule last spring — long before the NCAA issued its second Amended Notice of Allegations and set a hearing date.
Although he isn’t happy about having to leave town during his busiest time of the year, Fedora was anything but surprised when he learned of the NCAA’s request for him to testify in person.
“I knew it was a possibility,” he said. “You can look at every case across the country and whoever’s in charge of football, whoever’s in charge of basketball, they’re always there. So I had a feeling. I was hoping it wouldn’t. But that’s the way it happened.”
UNC faces five Level I charges, including the most serious lack of institutional control, for academic irregularities that took place over an 18-year span from 1993-2011. The university has countered that the anomalous classes do not fall under the jurisdiction of NCAA bylaws.
Fedora said that he doubts his testimony will have much of an impact on the case either positively or negatively, since he wasn’t hired until 2012 and his program has already been sanctioned by the NCAA during a previous phase of the investigation.
The Tar Heels served a one-year postseason ban during Fedora’s first season in Chapel Hill. They were also forced to vacate 15 scholarships over a three-year span, along with 16 wins earned during 2008-09 under former coach Butch Davis.
“I’m there for support, really,” Fedora said. “There’s nothing I can add to what happened before I ever got here. Me being there is important not only for the NCAA, but for the university. It shows that compliance is important to me and our program.”