EDMOND — North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora is almost seven years removed from Oklahoma State, but his ties to Stillwater are nowhere close to breaking.
Fedora became friends with pro golfer Scott Verplank while in Stillwater, and that brought Fedora back to Oklahoma on Monday for the Verplank Foundation Invitational at Oak Tree National.
The trip also brought Fedora’s memory back to OSU and the lessons he learned in three seasons as the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator.
“I had an unbelievable time with the people there and some really good friends,” he said.
Fedora said he remains close with OSU head coach Mike Gundy and strength coach Rob Glass, the only remaining member of Gundy’s original coaching staff. Gundy was scheduled to play at the Verplank Invitational as well, but he canceled Sunday night.
Fedora has other ties to the Cowboys staff such as running backs coach Jemal Singleton, who Fedora coached at Air Force.
And Fedora keeps in touch with other former OSU assistants such as Doug Meacham, Curtis Luper and Tim Beckman.
“We’re spread out all over the country,” Fedora said. “But we still talk about those times in Stillwater.”
Entering his third year at UNC, Fedora said he’s using what he learned at OSU to build his own contender in a power conference.
In Gundy’s first two seasons at OSU’s helm, the Cowboys went 4-7 and 7-6. Fedora said that time was crucial in his growth as a coach.
In Fedora’s first two seasons at UNC, the Tar Heels went 8-4 and 7-6.
Fedora’s biggest takeaway from Gundy was learning how to recruit and develop players to build a foundation. ESPN ranked North Carolina’s 2014 recruiting class No. 32 in the country, and the Tar Heels’ 2015 class is currently ranked 21st.
“One thing Mike has done and done the right way is build the program and build it over time,” Fedora said. “It wasn’t a fast fix.”
Although Fedora has had relative success in his two years at UNC, it’s come with challenges.
The NCAA banned the Tar Heels from the postseason in 2012 and slapped UNC with scholarship reduction and a three-year probation because of violations committed before Fedora’s tenure. Those violations include widespread academic fraud, impermissible agent benefits, participation by ineligible players and a failure to monitor the football program.
Fedora has already made progress in cleaning up the mess. Now he’s ready to take UNC a level higher — just like Gundy with OSU not long after Fedora left for Southern Miss in 2008.
Gundy and Oklahoma State.
“We had some issues that we had to overcome, but we’re making progress,” Fedora said. “I kind of compare things to where we were going into our third year in Stillwater.
“I know the future is very bright because I can compare what’s happened at Oklahoma State.”