Say this for Everett Withers--the man is not faking it when he says he's a lifelong North Carolina fan. When I try to think about how I would handle myself as the head coach at my favorite school, Everett Withers makes perfect sense. The man clearly has the sort of encyclopedic knowledge of hot button issues specific to State/UNC football that can only come from decades of immersion. And honestly, it's about time somebody took the subtlety out of what has been a tepid atmosphere. We all know Tom O'Brien wasn't the man to do it, save the sporadic dry remark. And Butch Davis couldn't be expected to know where all his rivalries were at all times.
"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."
Now, say what you will about the ill-considered focus on academics. Admittedly there's just a slight tinge of irony attached to the phrase "educational environment," what with that NCAA stuff and the tutor/nanny deal, but give Withers an 'A' for effort. (Lord knows Julius Nyang'oro would. Hey-o!) He's provided bulletin board material while denying doing so; he's giving us a wink while shaking his head. I mean, come on, if you throw in "the flagship," you're trolling and you know it.
And that's fine. I'd rather we traded barbs than go back and forth about how we care too much and it's our Super Bowl and and how this is all a one-sided affair from an emotional standpoint, which is far more disingenuous and ridiculous than anything we've heard this week.
So welcome to the party, Coach Withers. I'd also be happy to suggest a few places in which you might shove that flagship.