Oh c'mon, Everett Withers. Really?
Withers, who is serving as North Carolina's interim head football coach, took some verbal shots at N.C. State Wednesday in a taped radio interview with Joe Ovies of Raleigh's 99.9 "The Fan."
N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien responded angrily to what Withers said today -- read on for some of those comments or listen to them here.
But first, the setup: Particularly, Withers questioned the "academic environment" at N.C. State, which is laughable considering the Tar Heels are the ones who fired their coach Butch Davis just before the 2011 season due to the fallout of an academic scandal. In fact, UNC is waiting right now to hear word from the NCAA as to what its punishment is going to be after an investigation into the football program.
Yet Withers said in the radio interview: "When you have as many schools in this state as we have, and the recruiting base gets watered down a bit, I think the kids in this state need to know the flagship school in this state. They need to know it academically. If you look at our graduation rates, as opposed to our opponent's this week [N.C. State], graduation rates for athletics, football, you'll see a difference.... If you look at the educational environment here, I think you'll see a difference."
Withers was apparently referring to the fact that, according to data provided by the NCAA for the freshman class of 2004, UNC's football team had a graduation success rate of 75 percent compared to 56 percent for N.C. State. UNC's federal graduation rate, which doesn't count transfers or players who left early, was at 58 percent compared to 50 percent for N.C. State.
All of which is well and good, but again.... UNC has been involved in an NCAA investigation that includes what the NCAA defined as academic fraud!! Jennifer Wiley, a former university tutor and once an employee of Davis's, was accused of three major violations herself! It was only last Friday that UNC officials had to go to Indianapolis for a hearing held by the NCAA's Committee on Infractions.
In other words, Withers doesn't have a leg to stand on in this argument. The Tar Heels have long claimed the academic high ground. But for now, because of the actions of a few, that claim has to be forfeited as far as the football program is concerned. N.C. State fans and players are likely incensed by these comments.
O'Brien certainly is. When asked about Withers' comments Thursday, O'Brien responded by referring to UNC officials’ trip to Indianapolis last Friday to appear in front of the Committee on Infractions to answer charges of nine major violations in an ongoing NCAA investigation of impermissible benefits and academic fraud
“Here is a guy that’s on a football staff that ends up in Indianapolis,” O’Brien said. “. . .If you take three things that you can’t do in college football, you have an agent on your staff. You’re paying your players. And you have academic fraud. That’s a triple play as far as the NCAA goes. So I don’t know that he has anything to talk about or they have anything to talk about. If that’s what people want in their flagship university in North Carolina, then so be it.”
After being asked what he meant by “paying your players,” O'Brien indicated that he was referring to the impermissible benefits players received.
“They had players accepting money from somebody,” O’Brien said. “I mean, money is being given from someone to somebody, that’s been documented, right? I don’t know how it got there. Maybe I’m wrong saying that. But those are no-nos as far as the NCAA goes.”
And there was one more shot from O'Brien, too.
“At our school, A number one, all classes have a syllabus,” O’Brien said. “Our guys go to school. They’re not given grades, and they graduate. It’s a little tougher here, if you have to go to school and you’re expected to have a syllabus and go to class. So I think all our guys earn everything they get here. Certainly our graduates earn everything at this university."