Alternate headline: Everett Withers Making Up For Four Years of Downplaying NCSU Game All At Once.
I will say this for Withers, he is making the most of what will likely be his only shot at NC State. In an interview with 99.9 The Fan's Joe Ovies, Withers did his best to fan the rivalry flames into a full blown inferno.
“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 opponent’s this week, graduation rates for athletics, for football, you’ll see a difference. ... If you look at the educational environment here, I think you’ll see a difference.”
I haven't checked out any pro-NCSU website but I can only imagine how many panties are being bunched up over this. As the N&O's Joe Giglio points out, the data supports the statement. UNC has a better graduation rate across the athletic department as a whole and the football team compared to NC State. When you take into account the NCAA's APR, UNC also is ahead there with the Wolfpack's football APR hovering well below UNC's. The data points is the basis on which Withers makes the statement about the academic difference between the two school.
However, the problem for Withers raising academics is there was an academic portion of the NCAA investigation implicating a tutor and at least two players for NCAA violations. In addition, a handful of other players faced honor court sanctions. These kinds of issues tend to damper any boasting of academic prowess over a rival school. Or does it?
While it is true the NCAA found some instances of academic fraud, what was not found was any kind of evidence this was a systematic issue. It is important to remember it was only one tutor, Jennifer Wiley, who did not have her contract renewed by UNC because she was found to be violating policies governing interaction with the players. The NCAA report only cites two players involved, one of which was Michael McAdoo whose undetected plagiarism slipped by the honor court creating a major fuss over the summer. So, there were violations but were those violations so deep to tip the scales too much from Withers' assertion? Probably not but the violations do rob Withers' statement of some of its power and credibility even if it is still mostly correct according to the data.
At this point Withers is like the guy who knows he isn't staying on the job much longer so he is doing or saying whatever. And why not? Withers has absolutely nothing to lose. He can take shots across the bow of the U.S.S. Wolfpack to his heart's content because he likely will not get the interim tag removed making this his only and last shot at the Pack. In fact, I really don't care if Withers is ripping NC State providing he wins the game. If he wants to call Tom O'Brien a crusty old man with sinus cavity issues, what do I care? If he can get his players up for the game and take care of business, it will all be worth it. Even if UNC does lose, Withers will have succeeded in bring more heat to this rivalry in a one week span that the previous four years combined. Whatever else happens, the entertainment spring from that cannot be denied.