Cunningham on the job early to learn UNC culture
Posted October 17, 2011
Chapel Hill, N.C. — When it was announced that Bubba Cunningham was tabbed to succeed Dick Baddour as the athletic director at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, questions about his lack of ties to the school, let alone the state, were in abundance.
There were those that thought it was a poor decision to bring somebody in that knew very little about the school and even less about the staff. Others felt that a fresh outlook was the perfect answer to an athletics program that had recently hit a rough patch.
For Cunningham, it was a dream job that he had wanted since he met Baddour 20 years ago. His plan on putting the doubters of his arrival in his corner, he said, starts with learning.
“Being not from North Carolina, not knowing the culture very well, I think I start by learning the culture from the people that are there,” Cunningham said Monday as he joined Adam and Joe on 99.9 The Fan ESPN Radio. “And learning why the history and tradition of excellence, and doing things the right way, is so important in how we do that. I’m really going to come in early and just learn the culture and understand how things are done.”
Cunningham began experiencing the Tar Heel culture first hand, immediately after signing on the dotted line. He was introduced as the new AD Friday morning, went to Late Night with Roy Friday evening and hopped over to Kenan Stadium for the UNC-Miami football game Saturday afternoon.
Cunningham said part of his job is to make sure that all sports at UNC are successful, but especially the two he witnessed in the 30 hours after being introduced.
“Carolina is known around the world for their basketball program but they are also known for excellence in everything they do,” Cunningham said. “There have been periods of time throughout the Carolina history that both football and basketball have competed at the highest level. We’re going to strive for that.”
Entering the job, Cunningham knew that one of his first duties is to fill the head football coaching position. He said he will accept nothing less than the best available, and would not rule out the man with the head set right now.
“In the next six weeks, we have an interim head coach right now, so we need to hire a permanent coach, whether it’s Everett (Withers) or somebody else,” Cunningham said. “Those will be some of the standards that we’ll talk about is, ‘how do we compete for BCS championships at North Carolina?’”
Cunningham does not believe the upcoming meeting with the NCAA on nine major violations and the penalties that could be added to the already self-imposed ones by the university will deter a solid candidate from wanting to coach at UNC. He said he was serious about the job and knew what he was getting into and expects the permanent head coach to be the same way.
“I think it’s a highly attractive job from an AD perspective; I think it’s a highly attractive job from a coaching perspective,” Cunningham said. “Certainly every program has problems from time to time - now this one is a significant problem so I don’t mean to minimize it - but the opportunity to be successful outweighs any risk you have that you may have to start a little slower if there is a loss of scholarships over the next three years. Anybody that wouldn’t take it because they’re losing three scholarships, we don’t want that person. We want somebody that can build it and be successful over a long period of time.”