USM hires Fedora

Published 6:18 pm Thursday, December 13, 2007

Looking for some zip in the offense — and ticket sales — Southern Mississippi hired Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Larry Fedora as its new football coach Wednesday.

Fedora replaces Jeff Bower, who was forced to resign last month after 17 years and 119 wins.

“Becoming a head football coach has been a dream of mine a large part of my life,” Fedora told about 500 fans, media and members of the Southern Miss pep band. “This is a great university and athletics are rolling.”

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Fedora had been considered a front-runner for the job after he visited the Southern Miss campus last week.

The 45-year-old just completed his third season as the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator and has 16 years of college coaching experience, including a stint as Florida’s offensive coordinator. This will be his first job as head coach.

Athletic Director Richard Giannini said he was looking for a way to fill seats when he began searching for Bower’s replacement.

Fedora’s high-powered offense may be the solution. The Cowboys averaged 33.4 points and 484.1 yards per game on the way to a 6-6 record and an Insight Bowl berth.

Oklahoma State had the nation’s seventh-ranked rushing offense at 245.3 yards per game, and the overall offense was ranked ninth.

“We wanted someone that had incredible energy and incredible passion for the game of football and tremendous passion to be successful,” Giannini said. “And there’s no question we got the No. 1 guy. From Day 1, he was on our list.”

Fedora was the offensive coordinator at Florida in 2004 and has coached at Air Force, Baylor, Middle Tennessee State and Austin College, where he went to school.

Under Fedora in 2004, the Gators led the Southeastern Conference in six offensive categories and the school was the first to feature the conference’s top passer, rusher, receiver and total offense leader in the same season.

“Larry is one of the best coaches I have worked with in my time in college football,” said Illinois coach Ron Zook, who was Fedora’s boss at Florida. “He has a great offensive mind and the ability to motivate his players.”

Fedora will be under pressure to win immediately as he follows Bower, who had 14 straight winning seasons and bowl appearances in 10 of the last 11 years. Bower was a player and assistant coach with the school for 12 seasons before taking over as head coach.

His last game as coach will be the Bowl on Dec. 22 in Birmingham, Ala., against No. 20 Cincinnati.

Then it’s Fedora’s turn.

“Larry is ready for the job,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said.

“I think the people at Southern Mississippi will be very excited about the direction he will take them.”