Larry Fedora led North Carolina to 19 combined victories in 2015 and 2016, the third-highest two-year total in program history, which included their fourth-ever 11-win season. Since then, he's gone 4-12 and is in danger of tying the program's lowest two-year win total since the 1980s.
A week after winning their first game of the 2018 season, North Carolina was annihilated by Miami (FL) to drop to 1-3 on the season, which is their second straight 1-3 start. Last year's 1-3 start ballooned into a 1-8 start and ended with a 3-9 mark, their worst record since 2006.
Is Fedora on the hot seat?
North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham — and others within the school's leadership — have said nothing to suggest Fedora's job is in peril. Additionally, Fedora's buyout is enormous: $14 million. That figure drops to $10.5 million after the 2019 season, $7 million after 2020 and $3.5 million after 2021.
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The sudden downturn, however, is troubling. If the Tar Heels make a change, who might they target as Fedora's replacement? Would an eight-figure buyout (plus a potential buyout to another school to poach their coach) limit their options? Or would donor's open their piggy banks to lure a big-time name to Chapel Hill?
Names like Justin Wilcox, Mike Gundy, Bryan Harsin and Brent Venables might top their dream list, and while it's technically possible one of those coaches would be interested, don't bet the farm on North Carolina paying a $14 million buyout and hiring a high-priced sought-after coach.
Here are some potential realistic options, ranked:
1. Scott Satterfield
Current Position: Head Coach – App State
Satterfield isn't the big, proven Power Five name most North Carolina fans would want. He is, however, the best option for a program in need of a calculated and methodical rebuild.
The great news: Satterfield is from nearby Hillsborough, is one of the best coaches in the country and has a six-figure salary, suggesting he's willing to take less money for a perfect situation.
The bad news: Satterfield is an App State alum who has spent 90 percent of his career in Boone. He's in a perfect situation, constantly professes his love for his job and has no reason to leave.
It'd take a monumental effort to convince Satterfield to leave App State, and including him among realistic candidates is a stretch, but North Carolina must use the full-court press.
2. Seth Littrell
Current Position: Head Coach – North Texas
If North Carolina expects to have more seasons like 2015, might they hire a guy who was instrumental in that 2015 success?
Seth Littrell was associate head coach and tight ends coach for Fedora in 2014 and 2015, and, in 2015, helped lead a balanced offense that averaged 7.5 yards per play, six yards per carry and 41 points per game.
In just two-plus seasons, Littrell, 40, has transformed a one-win North Texas program into a New Year's Six contender that could win 10 games for the first time ever. He has extensive Power Five experience (offensive coordinator at Arizona and Indiana), has some east coast and southeast recruiting experience and could bring a talented staff to Chapel Hill.
3. Mike Norvell
Current Position: Head Coach – Memphis
For what it's worth, in a few brief chats with Mike Norvell, I've gotten the feeling he has no interest in leaving Memphis anytime soon. He's gushed over the program, school and city, given his raises to his staff and passed on Power Five interview requests.
The 36-year-old Texas native was an FCS graduate assistant just 12 years ago. After a successful stint as Arizona State offensive coordinator (2012-15), the first-time head coach has kept the Tigers rolling following Justin Fuente's departure.
4. Mike Houston
Current Position: Head Coach – James Madison
We discussed Houston-to-UNC extensively on the Week 2 recap episode of The Hot Route.
Houston is from North Carolina, spent the first 20 years of his career coaching high school, Division-II and Division-III football in the state, has recruited every corner of the region and has done remarkable work at James Madison.
Selling an FCS hire — Houston has zero FBS experience — to an aggravated donor and fan base would be a challenge, especially since this would require patience. Is Cunningham willing to roll the dice on Houston?