The ACC disagrees with an assessment from now-former North Carolina football head coach Larry Fedora about a brawl that took place at the conclusion of the N.C. State-UNC football game on Saturday.
On Monday, the conference handed down public reprimands and one-half suspensions to seven players — four Tar Heels and three members of the Wolfpack — for their role in an altercation that led to thrown punches and shoves after the Wolfpack emerged victorious, 34-28, in overtime.
A release from the conference office named seniors J.K. Britt and Jeremiah Clarke as the key participants in the scuffle, however the two cannot be punished because their NCAA eligibility has run out now that the Tar Heels' 2-9 season is over. Their teammates, juniors Dominique Ross and Patrice Rene, will be suspended for a half of the 2019 season opener against South Carolina in Charlotte on Aug. 31.
N.C. State players Freddie Phillips Jr., Tyler Jones and Justin Witt will also be ineligible to play in one half of next week's contest against ECU for their role in the fight. Both schools have been given the discretion to decide which part of the games their respective players will sit out for.
Just seconds after N.C. State running back Reggie Gallaspy Jr. dove into the end zone closest to the student section in Kenan Memorial Stadium, the celebration with his teammates turned into a fight that lasted for several minutes.
While it's unclear who started the conflict, players from both schools joined once the fight began.
In his final press conference in Chapel Hill, Fedora was asked for his take on what happened.
"There was no fight," he said. "Not to my knowledge."
As a follow up, Fedora was then asked how he would describe what happened: "Their team celebrating and our team celebrating," he said.
A question later, he then clarified his position.
"My team wasn't celebrating," he said. "Their team was celebrating, all right? In our end zone. That's what was happening. But there wasn't any fight to my knowledge."
The swift action taken by the ACC suggests the conference has no tolerance for Fedora's assessment of the behaviors that boiled over after the game. His mischaracterization of the event came as some of his final words he uttered publicly before the announcement Sunday that he would not be retained as head coach.
After the worst record for the program since 2003, this conflict during the final moment of the season was emblematic of the frustration the team endured in 2018. As the players were broken up and led to the locker room, it was a final embarrassment for a team that had one conference win and another over Western Carolina to show for its efforts of the year.
The season-ending loss was the third game in a row in which UNC had lost to N.C. State. North Carolina has been outscored by 25 combined points since it came away from Raleigh with an 11-point victory in 2015.
N.C. State quarterback Ryan Finley declared the Tar Heels' home field "Carter-Finley North" after the game because of the recent success of the program during his tenure.
The UNC football team has not beaten a conference opponent outside of Pittsburgh since Nov. 5, 2016.
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