North Carolina interim football coach Everett Withers added some heat to Saturdays game against N.C. State with some verbal jabs at the Wolfpack in a radio interview.
Withers, who has openly embraced the importance of the rivalry to the Tar Heels, questioned the academic environment at N.C. State and the motivation of the Wolfpack in games that arent against the Tar Heels, in a taped radio segment with Joe Ovies of Raleighs 99.9 The Fan.
Withers, who assumed the head coaching duties nine days before the season started after former coach Butch Davis was fired in July in the fallout of an academic scandal and an NCAA investigation of the Tar Heels football program, mentioned UNCs graduation rate, compared to N.C. States during the interview, which aired Wednesday afternoon.
When you have as many schools in this state as we have, and recruiting base gets watered down a bit, I think the kids in this state need to know the flagship school in this state, Withers said. They need to know it academically. If you look at our graduation rates, as opposed to our opponents this week, graduation rates for athletics, for football, youll see a difference. ... If you look at the educational environment here, I think youll see a difference.
According to data provided by the NCAA, for the freshmen class of 2004, UNCs football team had a graduation success rate of 75 percent, compared to 56 percent for N.C. State. UNCs federal graduation rate, which does not count transfers or players who left the program early, was 58 percent, compared to 50 percent for N.C. State.
Withers, who started working at UNC before the 2008 season, did not mention in the interview the academic violations asserted by the NCAA in its investigation of UNCs football program. UNC is still awaiting word from the NCAA on possible penalties; university officials were in Indianapolis Friday for a hearing held by the NCAAs Committee on Infractions.
Four UNC football players were suspended for the 2010 season for what the NCAA defines as academic fraud. Jennifer Wiley, a former university tutor and employee of Davis, was accused of three of the nine major violations.
One of the four suspended players, former defensive end Michael McAdoo, was ruled permanently ineligible for his work with Wiley. McAdoo subsequently sued the NCAA and the university, which in July led to the revelation that he plagiarized numerous passages of a paper for a Swahili course that the professor, the school and its honor court did not catch.
Withers, who has the Tar Heels at 6-3 and bowl eligible heading into Saturdays game at N.C. State, did talk about motivation in the rivalry. In the course of a four-year losing streak by UNC, some of its UNC players have admitted that the game seems to matter more to N.C. State.
Withers seemed to be taking a swipe at the Wolfpack with his comments about their motivation.
I dont know why theyre more motivated for us than any other game that they play, Withers said. I hope they were motivated last week versus Florida State, we were versus Wake Forest. UNC beat Wake Forest, 49-24 last Saturday, while N.C. State lost to FSU, 34-0.