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Headhunters: North Carolina strikes first in the Larry Fedora sweepstakes

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

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Longing for Larry. The hunt may be coming to a close at North Carolina, where UNC has identified its fox: Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora, fresh off a season-making (and season-wrecking) upset at Houston in the Conference USA Championship Game, who has reportedly been offered the job ($) and is expected to accept. (Say that five times fast.) Interim coach Everett Withers, as an aspiring full-time candidate yourself, how are you handling this not-at-all awkward situation?

Withers addressed his situation Monday at a press conference announcing the Tar Heels' Independence Bowl selection.

When asked how last week's interview went, the interim coach said "I hope it went good." Withers was then asked whether he would continue preparing the team for the Missouri game if somebody else got the job between now and then.

"I plan on coaching the bowl game," he said, "but football coaches are day-to-day."

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The biggest obstacle to closing the deal with Fedora? The competition: L-Fed has also been rumored at or near the top of wish lists at Illinois and Texas A&M, and almost certainly interviewed for the A&M job at the annual National Football Foundation Hall of Fame induction/unofficial job fair in New York. (Houston coach Kevin Sumlin was also in town to salvage his prospects after Saturday's loss.) If Fedora's not taking the podium in Chapel Hill in the next 24 hours, he could be shaking hands in College Station in the next forty-eight. Or in Tempe in the next seventy-two…

That old thing? Seems like they're practically giving Super Bowl rings away these days. After a week-long waggle dance with Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, the speculation at Penn State has yielded a new name, former Notre Dame quarterback Tom Clements, who grew up in western Pennsylvania, finished fourth in the 1974 Heisman Trophy race and has spent the last five years molding Aaron Rodgers into a killer robot as quarterbacks coach of the Green Bay Packers. (As you may be able to tell from his mugshot, Clements also spent five years as a lawyer before entering coaching. So he has the compliance department's vote.)

Given the persistent mediocrity of NFL-bred head coaches on the college level, you may wonder why any major school would keep looking to the pros for an answer. But given the apparent scarcity of headliners in line to succeed Joe Paterno, though, the more relevant question is still Who really wants this job, anyway?

Oh, well, what's the rush? UCLA struck out in its pursuit of Chris Petersen, and now appears to have whiffed on Sumlin and Miami's Al Golden, as well. Leaving, uh… who, exactly?{YSP:MORE}

As of Sunday night, the new answer was ex-Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks head coach Jim "Don't Call Me Junior" Mora, currently biding his time as a talking head on the NFL Network — appropriately enough, as he's spent exactly one year as a college coach on any level: 1984, as a graduate assistant at Washington. Bruins fans are… let's say, nonplussed about Mora's candidacy. Then again, where realistic candidates are concerned, they don't sound too high on anyone at the moment.

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Spectacularly bogus rumor of the day. You know who'd be just basically perfect for Kansas, according to a local salesman who was once a roommate of former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer? Former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer:

Former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer is ready, willing and able to whip this fractured football program into shape, according to a Lawrence man who shared a four-bedroom Wichita duplex with Fulmer and two other young men in 1974.

"He told me a little over a week ago, 'Let 'em know I'm interested,' " said local crop insurance man Rich Jantz. "The guy had a 152-52 record playing in the best conference in America! He wanted the job two years ago, and they hired a guy who was 20-30 in a bad league?"

Jantz's friendship with Fulmer started when the men worked in the Wichita State athletic department. Jantz was a tennis coach/assistant athletic director, Fulmer an assistant football coach.

If he actually gets the job at age 61, after three years on the shelf, maybe Fulmer should hire Rich Jantz as his agent.

This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Per today's introductory press conference, Mike Leach was hired at Washington State after making a four-mile bike ride to meet athletic director Bill Moos in Key West, Fla. I think that relationship is going to work out just fine.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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