CHAPEL HILL — The National Football Foundation awards diner and banquet is an annual black-tie event that draws the nation’s college football coaches and athletic directors to New York City.
Last year, it provided the setting for a series of interviews that led North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham to hire Larry Fedora as his football coach.
Fedora and Cunningham were back at the Waldorf Astoria for the dinner Tuesday night, and an Internet report claimed that Fedora was back on the interview circuit.
Volquest, a Rivals-affiliated website that covers Tennessee athletics, reported that Volunteers AD Dave Hart was interviewing Fedora on Tuesday, and that the UNC coach was one of three finalists for the job, along with Louisville’s Charlie Strong and Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy.
ESPN.com later reported that Louisville’s Charlie Strong was the frontrunner.
Both Cunningham and Fedora would not confirm or deny the report — both have longstanding policies not to comment on job searches.
The Tar Heels finished 8-4, 5-3 ACC in Fedora’s first season. They would have represented the Coastal Division in the ACC championship game this past Saturday if not for NCAA sanctions that included a 2012 postseason ban. The penalties also included a reduction of 15 scholarships over three years.
When he was hired, Fedora signed a seven-year deal that paid him roughly $2.5 million in 2012, which places him 24th among Division I coaches according to a database of salaries compiled by USA Today. Coach Derek Dooley was paid between $2-2.3 million during his three years at Tennessee.
According to his contract, Fedora must pay UNC $2.35 million in damages if he leaves before Jan. 15, and $1 million if he leaves between Jan. 15 and Jan. 14, 2014.
Fedora has not spent more than four years in any of his five previous stops — a head coaching job at Southern Miss and assistant coaching stints at Air Force, Middle Tennessee, Florida and Oklahoma State. But he said when he was introduced as UNC’s coach that he is eager to settle down.
“We’re looking for a home and we’re ready to stop moving, I can assure you,” said Fedora, who is married with four children.
While there was officially silence from UNC on Tuesday, a recruit said the report wasn’t true.
Jordan Fieulleteau, a senior receiver from Raleigh’s Wakefield High School who has committed to the Tar Heels, said on Twitter that he spoke to UNC defensive line coach Deke Adams. “It’s all rumors!” Fieulleteau wrote.