UNC Football: Ranking the Top 5 Most Successful Coaches at UNC
On Dec. 9, 2011, the University of North Carolina hired former Southern Mississippi head coach Larry Fedora to take over as head football coach of the Tar Heels.
The uncertainty surrounding this position since the announcement of the firing of Butch Davis has dominated a large portion of the talk about UNC football, being second only to buzz about the looming judgment of the NCAA Infractions Committee.
To say that this is hopefully the beginning of a new era in UNC football and the closing of the door to one of the program's darkest times would be an understatement for many fans.
In celebration of the change at the helm and the new direction of the UNC football program, let's take a look back at the five coaches who saw the greatest success while donned in the blue and white of UNC on gameday.
5. Bill Fetzer
Bill Fetzer coached the Tar Heels from 1921 to 1925, compiling a 30-12-4 record over five seasons. Fetzer's teams had winning seasons in four out of his five years at the helm, including a 9-1 season in 1922 that resulted in a tie for the Southern Conference Championship for the Tar Heels.
While Fetzer's tenure as head coach wasn't quite as long as others on this list, the reason he comes in at No. 5 is his extracurricular activities at UNC outside of football. Fetzer also coached the baseball team at UNC to a record of 70-37-4. Talk about an all-around great coach!
4. Carl Snavely
Carl Snavely had a short stint as head football coach of UNC in 1934 and 1935, leading the Heels to two consecutive second-place finishes in the Southern Conference. Snavely then left Carolina for Cornell in 1935 only to join them again as head football coach in 1945.
Snavely's return to UNC subsequently resulted in trips to three bowl games, final AP rankings of 16, 9 twice, and 3, as well as two Southern Conference Championships. Snavely finished his coaching career as a Tar Heel with an overall record of 59-35-5.
3. Dick Crum
Dick Crum coached the Heels from 1978 to 1987, posting a record of 72-41-3. Crum's 72 wins have secured him the honor of being the head football coach with the most wins in UNC history. Crum also coached some of Carolina's greatest alumni, including defensive legend Lawrence Taylor.
During his tenure, Crum led the Tar Heels to six bowl games, four of which were Carolina victories, AP rankings of 18, 15, 10, and 9, and an ACC Championship that was a result of a stellar 11-1 season, the only loss coming to the Big 8 Champion Oklahoma Sooners.
During the second half of his UNC career however, Crum could not find his previous success, which lands him the third spot in our rankings.
2. Mack Brown
Current Texas head coach Mack Brown comes in at No. 2 on our list. The successor to Crum, Brown coached from 1988 to 1997. Brown's first two seasons were less than spectacular with back to back 1-10 records.
Fortunately, Brown found success in his third season at the helm and never looked back, leading the Tar Heels to a record of 69-46-1 in 10 years, never finishing worse than 5th afterward and coming up only three wins shy of Crum's record for all-time wins.
Brown also took the Heels to six bowl games, including the Peach Bowl, the Carquest Bowl, the Sun Bowl and three trips to the Gator Bowl (however the third trip was credited to Carl Torbush due to Brown's departure for Texas).
Brown's Tar Heel teams acquired AP rankings of 19 twice, 10, and 4. While Brown never won an ACC Championship at Carolina, it is worth noting that Brown's coaching tenure saw the introduction of college football powerhouse Florida State into the ACC, a school Carolina finished second to on three separate occasions, including Florida State's national championship run of 1993.
Brown is probably the best coach overall on this list, but when it comes to being in the blue and white of UNC, he finishes a very close second to our final coach of this countdown.
1. Bill Dooley
Bill Dooley coached the Tar Heels from 1967 to 1977, amassing a record of 69-53-2. At 69 wins, Dooley is tied with Mack Brown for second most wins all time by a Carolina head coach. While Dooley's winning percentage isn't as good as the percentages of some of the other coaches on this list, the significance of the wins by Dooley's teams earns him the number one spot.
Dooley was able to produce three ACC Championships with the Tar Heels, the most by any Carolina head football coach to date. Dooley also led the Tar Heels to six bowl games, including a Sun Bowl victory over Texas Tech that capped off an 11-1 overall finish, the first of two 11-1 finishes in school history. Dooley also helped the Tar Heels reach AP rankings of 17 and 12.
Out of the numerous great coaches that have put on the blue and white of UNC, with three championships under his belt in 11 seasons, along with a tie for second most wins in school history, Dooley makes the strongest argument to be known as the most successful coach to take command of the UNC Tar Heels football team.
With incoming coach Larry Fedora coming off of a huge upset over Houston for the Conference USA Championship and a victory over Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl, Tar Heel fans can only hope that he will bring that success he has had at Southern Mississippi with him to UNC.
Can Larry Fedora challenge the records set by his predecessors at Carolina? With a wounded Atlantic Coast Conference that has seen many former powerhouses produce mediocre seasons in recent years, it is certainly feasible that Coach Fedora just might have his chance to do so in the coming years.
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