Cat Fight

Tobacco Road spat: O’Brien rips Withers’ ‘academic’ comments


Apparently, there’s a cute little cat fight brewing between the football coaches at North Carolina and North Carolina State — over academics.

The back story: during a radio appearance Wednesday ahead of their annual rivalry game with NCSU, UNC interim coach Everett Withers questioned “the academic environment” at the Raleigh school, and said recruits in the area “need to know the flagship school in this state.”

“They need to know it academically,” Withers said during the radio spot. “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.”

Conveniently, Withers failed to mention that, of the two schools, only his has appeared before the NCAA Committee on Infractions recently to answer questions regarding, among other things, academic fraud in the football program.  That point didn’t go unnoticed by Withers’ NCSU counterpart, who lit into the coach’s remarks when asked about them Thursday, bringing up not only the academic fraud angle of the NCAA issues but also the one-time presence of John Blake on the coaching staff — alleged to be on the take from a now-deceased NFL agent — as well as multiple players receiving impermissible benefits.

“Here is a guy that’s on a football staff that ends up in Indianapolis,” O’Brien said at his regularly scheduled post-practice media availability. “. . .If you take three things that you can’t do in college football, you have an agent on your staff. You’re paying your players. And you have academic fraud. That’s a triple play as far as the NCAA goes. So I don’t know that he has anything to talk about or they have anything to talk about. If that’s what people want in their flagship university in North Carolina, then so be it.”

He was asked what he meant by “paying your players.” He indicated that he was referring to the impermissible benefits players received.

“They had players accepting money from somebody,” O’Brien said. “I mean, money is being given from someone to somebody, that’s been documented, right? I don’t know how it got there. Maybe I’m wrong saying that. But those are no-nos as far as the NCAA goes.”


You’ll have to forgive any cattiness being displayed by the respective coaches theses days.  Withers is the head coach of the Tar Heels on an interim basis and will likely be replaced following the season with a permanent coach following a national search.  O’Brien’s hold on the Wolfpack job is a tenuous one, rumored to be on the coaching hot seat in the midst of a 4-4 season and with just one winning record in his first four years at the school.

And, as far as what the two are squabbling over?  The Charlotte Observer notes that, “[a]ccording to data provided by the NCAA, North Carolina’s football team had a graduation success rate of 75 percent for the freshman class of 2004, compared to 56 percent for N.C. State.”

The graduation success rate in 1-A (FBS) football for entering class of 2004 is 69 percent.

Steve Spurrier discusses retirement; Gamecocks name Shawn Elliott interim coach

Steve Spurrier

Odds are pretty good Steve Spurrier has coached his final game as the Head Ball Coach, but Spurrier let it be known he is not going to go away quite as easily as you might think. Spurrier addressed the media today as South Carolina made its transition between coaches official. Spurrier noted he is resigning as head coach, but he is not necessarily retiring. As previously reported, Shawn Elliott will take on the role as interim head coach of the Gamecocks effective immediately.

The first thing Spurrier wants to remind everybody is he is not retiring. This is simply a resignation from his current position. Spurrier left the door open to possible options down the road for him in his post-coaching career. The idea of Spurrier walking away from the football world never to be heard from again is a startling one, so it is good to know he is not going to let that happen.

“College football is a game of recruiting, as well know,” Spurrier said when assessing why it was right for him to leave his job now. “That’s another reason I need to move on. I don’t know if coaching is completely over or not. It is fun being on a team. I might be a consultant for someone. I doubt if I’ll be a head coach again, but who knows?”

Spurrier said he realized Sunday the time to walk away was now and explained he always knew he would need to step aside the moment he saw himself holding the program back. That echoes the sentiment he has shared over the years, especially when asked about coaches like Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden as they each got up in the years. This season South Carolina is off to a 2-4 start, so the writing was on the wall for Spurrier, who also said it was in the best interests for all if an inevitable change was handled immediately.

“We’ve slipped. It’s my fault. I’m the head coach,” Spurrier said of South Carolina’s recent struggles.”We haven’t lost it. We’ve got a dang good team.”

“Our team is not in shambles despite what some might say,” Elliott said when he was given a chance to speak to the media. “We’re going to do everything we can to make the University of South Carolina proud of this football program.”

Elliott will now have the rest of the season to show what he can do as a head coach, and he knows this will be a bit of an open audition for the job as South Carolina starts searching for its next head coach.

Mark Dantonio quickly tosses aside South Carolina discussion

Mark Dantonio

Michigan State has become a national power under the coaching of Mark Dantonio. The grizzled and confident coach has put together a master plan in East Lansing and has taken the Spartans to the top of the Big Ten along the way, capturing a Big Ten title and victories in the Cotton Bowl and Rose Bowl as well as in-state dominance over the Michigan Wolverines. Danotnio is preparing his Spartans to take on the Wolverines this week, but with the new vacancy opening up at South Carolina following the sudden retirement of Steve Spurrier, Dantonio has already been presented with the question about his thoughts on coaching at South Carolina.

He did not seem all that interested in discussing the vacancy when meeting with Michigan State media this morning.

“Coach Spurrier’s had an outstanding career there, it’s alma mater, and we’re here to talk about Michigan,” Dantonio said when asked about it today. Video below from the Big Ten Network

Dantonio played defensive back for the Gamecocks in the mid 1970s, which helps make Dantonio an interesting name to mention in any coaching future discussion out of Columbia. While Dantonio may have played at South Carolina for Jim Carlen, Dantonio grew up in Ohio and has coached the bulk of his career within Ohio and the Big Ten. He is also one win away from picking up his 100th career coaching victory, 81 of which have come at Michigan State.