CHAPEL HILL - Everett Withers now says he was merely trying to express his pride in the University of North Carolina, not insult N.C. State.
After practice today, interim football coach Withers was asked about comments he made that aired Wednesday on 99.9 The Fan. In the Wednesday comments, Withers had compared graduation rates for athletes and football players at the two schools and said there is a different "educational environment" at UNC.
He focused more on praising UNC this afternoon.
"My statement didn’t have anything to do with really North Carolina State’s academics," Withers said. "It’s about my pride in the University of North Carolina what our faculty and our administration have done here, and I have a lot of pride for what this school stands for academically. That’s part of the whole student-athlete experience."
UNC chancellor Holden Thorp has apologized to N.C. State chancellor Randy Woodson over the comments, according to UNC spokeswoman Nancy Davis. Withers was asked if he talked with athletic director Dick Baddour about the radio interview.
"We talked a little bit," Withers said, "but I want everybody to know that my intent was pride for the University of North Carolina."
Earlier Thursday, N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien reacted angrily to Withers' comments and referred to an NCAA investigation has UNC facing allegations of nine major violations.
O'Brien said Withers was part of a staff that had achieved a "triple play" in the eyes of the NCAA, with an agent on the staff, players getting paid impermissible benefits and academic fraud.
Withers said he was aware of O'Brien's comments.
"Boy," Withers said, "it must be a rivalry week."
North Carolina (6-3, 2-3 ACC) visits N.C. State (4-4, 1-3) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
David Scott has been with the Observer for 28 years and has written about ACC, SEC and other college sports in the Charlotte region. He covers Wake Forest, South Carolina and college soccer for the Observer and (Raleigh) News & Observer.
J.P. Giglio covers the ACC for the News & Observer, where he has worked since 1997, and the Observer.
Andrew Carter covers the North Carolina Tar Heels for the Observer and News & Observer.
Laura Keeley covers the Duke Blue Devils for the Observer and News & Observer. Follow her on Twitter.
Chip Alexander covers the Carolina Hurricanes and college football for the News & Observer, where he has worked since 1979, and the Observer.
Luke DeCock has worked for The News & Observer since 2000. He covered the Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a sports columnist for the Observer and News & Observer in August 2008.