CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- North Carolina coach Larry Fedora strongly believes that the game of football is tied to the success of the country, and on Wednesday at ACC Media Days he repeated, multiple times, his stance that the game of football is "under attack."
Fedora fears that the changes to the game in response to concerns about player safety will make the game of football unrecognizable in the future. He said there is "no doubt" in his mind that losing the game of football as it is being played in the present day would cause a decline in American values.
"I think [football going away or being changed] would be the decline of our country," Fedora said. "There's no doubt in my mind. I think the lessons that you learn in the game of football relay 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. I think in some ways we're struggling now more than we ever have. Are we ever going to be a perfect country? No. But I think the game of football has had a major impact on who we are as a country."
In between questions regarding North Carolina's quarterback battle and the expectations for the 2018 season, Fedora was brought back to the topic of the relationship between football and the country. Part of the reason he believes the game is "under attack" has been the increased focus on concussions and the relationship between football and CTE -- a relationship he openly questioned during the media scrum.
"I don't think that it's been proven the game of football causes CTE, but that's been put out there," Fedora said. "We don't really know yet. Are there chances for concussions in the game of football -- yeah, we all have common sense, right? When you have two people running into each other there is a chance of a concussion. But the game is safer than its ever been in the history of the game."
Later in the afternoon, Fedora met with a small group of reporters to offer additional explanation regarding his CTE comments. He pointed out that the University of North Carolina is one of the nation's leaders in concussion research and that the Tar Heels' football team was one of the first to put sensors in the helmets to detect head injuries. Fedora also acknowledged and agreed to studies that have drawn a connection between CTE and repeated blows to the head, but added that all contact sports, football included, come with a risk of head trauma.
Earlier, Fedora endorsed kids waiting until middle school to play tackle football and acknowledged that he, universities and everyone involved in the sport is responsible for making players aware of the risks involved with a violent sport. But Fedora puts the ultimate responsibility in the hands of the players, who by making the decision to play college football have agreed to accepting those risks.
"When you're talking about the health and safety of your players. Is it our responsibility to prepare them for the chances of it happening and what happens when you've had one? To the best of my knowledge that's what we do. I think every kid that's playing the game at this level understands there are risks. Now, that person has to weigh whether the risk is worth the reward. He has to, and he's the only one who can make that decision. If he comes to college on a college scholarship, he's probably made that decision."