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UNC coach Larry Fedora: Football is 'under attack' and if it goes down 'our country will go down too'

North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora answers a question during a news conference at the NCAA Atlantic Coast Conference college football media day in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, July 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Larry Fedora got really weird during ACC Media Days on Wednesday.

The North Carolina coach wasn’t shying away from the hyperbole about the threats he thinks football faces going forward. He even went so far as to link the potential decline of football to the potential decline of America.


We’re just spitballing here but the United States’ stability probably has more to do with solidifying its defenses against foreign interference in the democratic process than it does with changes to football.

U.S. military superiority is because of football?

Fedora didn’t stop there, either. He then claimed he had a general tell him that the United States’ military superiority is linked to football.


The answer really doesn’t make much sense. Football wasn’t around during the Revolutionary War or the Civil War. And the recent growth of the game has come in the post-Vietnam War era.

Fedora then explained further why he thought football’s decline could lead to the decline of the country.


“There will be the decline of our country, no doubt,” Fedora said. “There’s no doubt in my mind. I think because of the lessons you learn in the game of football relate to everything that’s going to happen in the rest of your life. And if we stop learning those lessons we’re going to struggle. And I think in some ways we’re struggling more than we ever have. Are we ever going to be a perfect country, no, not by any means, but I do think the game of football has had a major impact on who we are as a country.”

Perhaps we should tell Fedora that not everyone in the United States plays football or pays attention to football? And other democracies function just fine without American football being a staple of the sports landscape. Fedora needs to get out and enjoy life more. We know losing seasons take their toll, but goodness, this is out there.

Fedora not sure it’s been proven that football causes CTE

Football is changing, however. And it’s changing for the better, at least when it comes to player safety. As we learn more and more how repetitive head trauma can damage the brain, those in charge of football are finally taking small steps to try to keep players healthier later in life.

That’s not putting football “under attack.” That’s trying to help players live better lives after their playing careers are over. You may not agree with the changes that are being made to football games but you can’t argue that they’re not being done with a noble goal in mind. But perhaps you think football is under attack if you’re unsure that CTE can be linked to football.


CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a degenerative brain disease most commonly found in the brains of people who have suffered repetitive head trauma. While there’s no foolproof link that football causes CTE, it’s incredibly reasonable to think that playing football increases the risk of CTE. A study published in April found that kids who played football earlier in life had earlier cognitive issues. 

The parents of Tyler Hilinski, a Washington State quarterback who committed suicide earlier this year, said their son had CTE.

Fedora’s comments linking the fall of the United States to the fall of football came in his post-news conference breakout session. During his news conference he lauded the changes that have occurred in football over the years, saying the game was safer than its ever been. That’s an inarguable point. Football is getting safer. But, as Fedora points out, there are still lots of risks involved. And trying to mitigate those risks going forward isn’t a bad idea.

When I started playing the game, it was all about the head. You were going to stick your head into everything. And as we’ve learned and we understand the dangers of what’s going on in the game of football, you’ve taken — you slowly have taken the head out of the game. And so all the drills that you teach, all the tackling, all the things you do, you do it with the head out of the game, to keep the head away from the impacts.

Also, back when I played, you were three practices a day during fall camp. I mean, so all of those changes — you had one cup of water at practice. We’ve learned and evolved so much about hydration and you don’t need to take salt tablets and all those different things that you did in the past.

I’m going to tell you, the game right now, the game is safer than it’s ever been in the history of the game. It is. I mean, it really is. Are there still injuries? Yeah. It’s a violent sport. You’ve got big, fast, strong guys running into each other. Something is going to give. But there are risks involved in the game, and everybody that plays the game understands those risks. It’s not like they’re going into it not knowing that something could happen. And so they have to — personally have to weigh those risks versus the rewards.

But I believe, there’s no doubt in my mind, the changes that we’re making year to year for the health and safety of our players, the game is safer than it’s ever been in the history of the game.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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