Posted by Chip Patterson
On Saturday, North Carolina and NC State will kickoff the 101st meeting of the in-state rivals. The Wolfpack have owned the rivalry as of late, with head coach Tom O'Brien boasting a 4-0 record against the Tar Heels. Former head coach Butch Davis always seemed to play down the rivalry between the two schools, which are separated by just 27 miles of Interstate 40. But interim coach Everett Withers has re-ignited the smack talk between he two schools, taking shots at NC State's academic environment in an appearance with Joe Ovies of 99.9 The Fan ESPN Radio - based in Raleigh, N.C..
“When you have as many schools in this state as you have and the recruiting base gets watered down a little bit, I think the kids in this state need to know ‘the flagship school,” Withers said in the Wednesday interview. “They need to know it academically. If you look at our graduation rates opposed to our opponent this week’s graduation rates for football, I think you’ll see a difference. If you look at the educational environment here, I think you’ll see a difference.”
Interesting quotes from the head of a program that just a week ago appeared in front of an NCAA Committee on Infractions to address violations - some of which were related to academics. Perhaps Withers, a lifelong North Carolina native, is more passionate about the rivalry with the four in-state schools in the ACC than his predecessor. There are some facts behind his jabs (UNC boasts higher graduation rates in the football program) but the point seemed to be good old fashion smack talk.
This smack talk was not taken kindly by N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien, who responded to the comments on Thursday following the Wolfpack's practice. O'Brien usually does not allow himself to get caught up in off-field matters like this, but he was clearly set off by Withers' comments
“As far as the flagship, here was a guy (Withers) who was on a football staff that ends up in Indianapolis." He went on to say, “You have an agent on staff, you are paying players & you have academic fraud. That's a triple play."
O'Brien also addressed the alleged academic issues at North Carolina, where players have been reportedly given plenty of exceptions from teachers and even department heads.
“At our school, number one, all classes have a syllabus. Our guys go to school, they are not given grades, and they graduate.”
While North Carolina leads the rivalry 63-31-6, NC State has claimed 7 of the last 11 meetings. Five of the last eight contests have been decided by one score or less. But for the first time since John Bunting and Chuck Amato were on the sideline, this rivalry has hate once again.
Audio of the quotes can be found at WRALSportsFan.com
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