Posted by Chip Patterson
On Friday afternoon, Everett Withers was announced as the interim head coach of the North Carolina football program. Withers takes over just days after the abrupt dismissal of Butch Davis and less than a week before players report back to campus for training camp.
The way in which Davis was dismissed, and the timing in particular, has divided the North Carolina fan base and left many Tar Heels (players included) searching for answers. The administration made it clear they believed the best move was to promote from within immediately, and on Friday they officially introduced Withers to the media.
"We believe that he has the leadership, skills, and ability to take on this very difficult task," said athletic director Dick Baddour in his introductory comments. "We firmly believe he has the talent to stabilize this team and rally the players around each other."
Withers has served as North Carolina's defensive coordinator and secondary coach the last three seasons. He is a native of Charlotte, NC and spoke about watching Tar Heel greats like Amos Lawrence growing up, wishing one day he could play for North Carolina. Withers joked that he wasn't fast enough to play for the Tar Heels, but it was at Appalachian State where he played for then-coach Mack Brown. Withers said he has stayed in touch with Brown over the years, and credits the Texas head coach for helping start him down the coaching career path.
Taking over for Butch Davis amid NCAA allegations and possible sanctions is no easy task, particularly this close to the season. Withers explained his first task is to get the players and staff on the same page, ensuring everyone that they can get through these turbulent times together.
"We won't flinch as a football staff or a football team," Withers said. "What I mean by that is that we've been through a lot already, nothing that comes at us will bother us."
Still, Withers was unable to avoid questions regarding contact with Coach Davis (with whom he still texts) and if he had any knowledge of the wrongdoing while on staff at North Carolina. The former defensive coordinator explained that while previously he was consumed with the X's and O's of the defense, his primary job now is to hold the players accountable for their actions, and ensure the program is moving in the right direction towards success.
Withers, who is clearly not at a loss for adages, explained is simply: "It's not how heavy the load but how you carry it."
North Carolina reports to camp on Aug. 4 and begins practicing the following day.