Growing up in Charlotte, Everett Withers daydreamed about playing football at North Carolina.
Now, he's the Tar Heels' interim head coach.
The school announced Thursday evening that Withers, the Tar Heels' defensive coordinator the last three seasons, will take over as coach following the firing of Butch Davis. The university will pursue a permanent replacement, but no timeline has been discussed publicly. Details of Withers' contract were not immediately available; the 48-year-old Withers will meet with the media at 3 p.m. today.
"I believe Everett is the right person for our football program under these challenging circumstances," UNC chancellor Holden Thorp said in a prepared statement. "I am impressed with the relationships he has built with our players and staff, and it is our top priority to help our student-athletes going forward. I believe he can help our students succeed at the highest level both on and off the field and in the classroom."
Withers takes over a team faced with multiple off-the-field distractions sparked by an NCAA investigation launched last year. Davis, who was set to begin his fifth year as coach, was let go just nine days before practice was set to begin. Thursday, athletic director Dick Baddour announced his resignation, although he will stay on until the hiring of his successor.
And on Oct. 28, school officials will attend a hearing with the NCAA Committee on Infractions that will eventually determine sanctions against the university following allegations of academic fraud and impermissible benefits.
Fall practice begins next Friday.
"I'm excited for this opportunity, and I'm honored the chancellor and Dick Baddour have faith in me to do this job," Withers said in a prepared statement. "I realize this appointment is coming during a tough transition for our football players and staff. My job and the job of our assistant coaches is to prepare these students to perform at the highest level this season. I love Carolina and this community, and I will do everything I can to make the Tar Heel fans proud of this team."
Last season, North Carolina's defense under Withers ranked fourth in the ACC and 30th in the country.
The father of two played defensive back at West Charlotte High, then at Appalachian State from 1981-85. In an interview several years ago, Withers said the coaching bug bit him near the end of his junior year in Boone, when Mack Brown, then Appalachian State's coach, called him into his office and asked, 'What do you want to do with your future?' "
"I had moved from corner to safety to outside linebacker, so I was kind of moving closer to the line of scrimmage, so I figured by then I wasn't going to be an NFL corner," Withers said. "And I was always intrigued with X's and O's and that kind of stuff, was always doodling plays and schemes. So coaching made sense."
After a year at Appalachian State as a graduate assistant, Withers made coaching stops at Austin Peay, Tulane, Southern Mississippi, the New Orleans Saints, Louisville, Texas, the Tennessee Titans and Minnesota before returning to his home state before the 2008 season.
This marks his first head coaching post.
"The chancellor and I spoke with him this afternoon, and we believe he has the leadership qualities to help our student-athletes deal with the challenges ahead," Baddour said in a prepared statement. "We are fortunate to have someone with his credentials and background. He is ready for this position."
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