CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Everett Withers isn't focused on the disappointment of not getting the permanent head coaching job at North Carolina. He's busy preparing for a bowl game that will be his last with the Tar Heels before possibly joining Urban Meyer at Ohio State.
UNC's interim coach said Wednesday he has talked with the Buckeyes. While nothing is official yet, Withers said it's "working that way" when asked about joining Meyer's staff.
"When it's official, you'll know," he said.
Meyer had said Withers was "in the picture" during an interview Tuesday on WBNS radio in Columbus, Ohio, according to published reports. He didn't say if a deal was final.
"Like I said, coaches are day to day," Withers said. "You're always disappointed when you don't get something, but as a coach you learn to move on fast."
North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham interviewed Withers among four candidates before hiring Larry Fedora from Southern Mississippi last week. That leaves Withers to prepare for the Dec. 26 game against Missouri in the Independence Bowl knowing it's a farewell of sorts.
Withers had spent the past three seasons as defensive coordinator under Butch Davis before taking over when the school fired Davis just before training camp amid an NCAA investigation into the program. Withers, a first-time head coach, led the Tar Heels (7-5) to their fourth straight bowl game and within a win of matching their record of the previous three seasons.
Wednesday's post-practice comments were Withers' first since the school hired Fedora.
"You know, every year I've been in this profession — I think this is 24 — this time of year gets tough on a lot of people," Withers said. "If you've been through it long enough, you go through these (periods). It's just part of the gig."
Offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper said the Tar Heels didn't let the uncertainty over Withers' status be a distraction all season, so they wouldn't let it be one now.
"We're going to miss him," Cooper said. "We're going to miss the coaching staff. We love all those guys. I've been with those guys for four years now. But it's just one of those things. The coaches told us: 'It's just life, it happens. You just move forward and work with what you have.'"
Withers said he is focused on ensuring the seniors "go out the right way" in the bowl game. At least one of his players is focused on doing the same for him.
"I feel like as a gift from us, as a gift from the players, we want to finish off this season with a win and give him that 8-5 record," tailback Giovani Bernard said. "It's not the best record in the world, but it's a pretty good record and it's what we want to do for him."
Missouri (7-5, 5-4 in Big 12)
vs. North Carolina (7-5, 3-5 ACC)
WHEN: 4 p.m. Dec. 26
WHERE: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, La.
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM, 100.5 FM; KCMQ/98.7 FM