UNC's Withers reassures faculty in email

Tar Heels coach reassures academic community of the football program's commitment to classroom.

Staff WriterSeptember 14, 2011 

  • I wanted all of you to know that the football staff, support personnel, and I have a commitment to the University of North Carolina to play an exciting brand of football, but more importantly, to play football with young men who want to graduate with a degree second-to-none from this great institution.

    We are committed to a recruiting process to find young men who possess a desire to achieve success not only on the football field, but in the classroom, and in the Carolina Community. We talk a lot in Kenan Football Center about three distinct areas to promote in recruiting:

    1. The top-notch academic reputation of UNC

    2. Athletics at UNC; 28 sports playing at a high-level, including championship football!

    3. The great social experience on campus and in the surrounding community

    These three points are referenced consistently in recruiting young men that want a great education and an opportunity to play exciting, championship football in a terrific social setting.

    We understand it is our responsibility to develop young men athletically, but also to help in their maturation and social skills. If you have an issue with any of our football student-athletes, feel free to contact me or the Associate Director of Academic Counseling for Football. As we are partners in these young men's development, do not hesitate or wait so that we can address issues promptly.

    We know that the experience our student-athletes have at UNC lasts not for just four or five years, but for a lifetime. Thanks for allowing me some of your time.

    Go Heels!

North Carolina interim football coach Everett Withers wants to win games.

But in a Sept. 7 email sent to the university's faculty, he stressed that he wants to do so with players who also want to earn a degree.

"We are committed to a recruiting process to find young men who possess a desire to achieve success not only on the football field, but in the classroom and the Carolina Community," wrote Withers, whose team is 2-0 entering Saturday's game against Virginia.

North Carolina's football program has come under fire over the past 15 months as the NCAA investigated academic misconduct by Tar Heels players and cases of impermissible benefits. University officials are scheduled to address the NCAA's allegations of nine major violations by the football program at an Oct. 28 hearing in Indianapolis.

The academic issues include an undergraduate tutor - who also worked for former coach Butch Davis - who paid for a player's parking tickets and airfare, and who gave multiple Tar Heels improper help on class assignments.

Earlier this month, the chair of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, Julius Nyang'oro, resigned his position after The News & Observer reported he hired a sports agent to teach a summer class while the agent was representing two Tar Heels football players, without telling his boss about the agent's profession.

Nyang'oro also missed a blatant case of plagiarism in a paper submitted by one football player, Michael McAdoo, and his department allowed incoming freshman Marvin Austin, a prized recruit, to take a 400-level class taught by Nyang'oro before Austin had taken introductory classes.

McAdoo and Austin were among those kicked off the team last season as part of the NCAA investigation.

Withers wrote in his email to faculty that when recruiting players, the football coaches promote, in this order:

The top-notch academic reputation of North Carolina;

The school's 28-sport program playing at a high level;

The great social experience on campus and in the surrounding community.

Withers then urged faculty to call him, or the associate director of academic football for counseling, if they had any issues with football players.

"We understand it is our responsibility to develop young men athletically, but also to help in their maturation and social skills," he wrote.

This isn't the first time Withers, promoted at the end of July to replace the fired Davis, has reached out to different groups. Last week, he wrote a letter to students, printed in The Daily Tar Heel, asking them to support the team.

During training camp, he also invited former lettermen to attend a closed scrimmage; as part of his thank-you note to them, Withers included a poem titled, "The Bridge Builder."

rpickeral@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8944

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