North Carolina AD Bubba Cunningham defends Larry Fedora

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Friday, July 20, 2018

North Carolina's athletic director came to football coach Larry Fedora's defense a day after Fedora was widely questioned for saying he doubted the connections between football and CTE.

Bubba Cunningham told reporters during a break in Thursday's UNC board of trustees meetings that Fedora's point was "poorly communicated."

"You know, I think Larry was really concerned about the health and safety of students, and I don't think it came across all that well, obviously," Cunningham said.

"We're lucky to be working in such a great environment where the health and safety of our students is first and foremost. Larry feels that way. Again, it was just poorly communicated yesterday. But he's passionate about protecting these students, he's passionate about the game of football, it just didn't come off all that well."

At Wednesday's ACC media days in Charlotte, Fedora said, "I'm not sure that anything is proven that football, itself, causes [CTE]. My understanding is that repeated blows to the head cause it, so I'm assuming that every sport we have, football included, could be a problem with that as long as you've got any kind of contact."

CTE is a degenerative brain disease found in people with a history of head injuries, including athletes.

Fedora also said that football is under attack to the point "the game will be pushed so far from what we know that ... We won't recognize it in 10 years."

Fellow coaches were asked for their reaction, including South Carolina's Will Muschamp.

"As far as CTE, concussions, I feel very comfortable with the policies and the procedures we have," Muschamp said Thursday. "The No. 1 point of all of this is the health of our student-athletes."

ACC commissioner John Swofford said the connection between football and CTE established by scientists should be respected.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Swofford said "football's not alone" in concerns over concussions in sports. But he said "football by its very nature is going to be looked at first."

He also said it's important to be willing to consider adjustments to improve player safety, whether it deals with rules, practice or equipment.

"If we're not looking at it that way, I think we've got our heads in the sand," Swofford said.

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