UNC Hires Tulsa's Cunningham As Athletic Director

Friday, October 14th 2011, 10:37 am
By: News On 6

NewsOn6.com and Wire Reports

CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina – North Carolina has hired University of Tulsa athletic director Bubba Cunningham as the new AD for the Tar Heels.

The University trustees approved the hire Friday morning after they called an 'emergency meeting via conference call to discuss a personnel matter 'and Cunningham's start date is set for November 14.

"Anybody that knows anything about college athletics knows that this is the pinnacle of success here and to think you can be a part of it is a dream and it's a dream come true," said Cunningham shortly after he was introduced Friday.

According to the Associated Press, Cunningham's new contract will be through June 2017 and he will make $525,000 annually which includes a $40,000 annual expense allowance. Cunningham can receive bonuses for average team academic performance as well as when the football team reaches a bowl or the men's and women's basketball teams reach the NCAA tournament.

Cunningham, who has served as the AD at Tulsa since Oct. 2005, replaces Dick Baddour who stepped down after 14 years. Baddour's exit comes amid the ongoing NCAA investigation into the football program.

Baddour will remain at UNC at least through the school's appearance before the NCAA infractions committee on Oct. 28.

Shortly after the trustees meeting Friday morning, the school held a news conference at the Smith Center to introduce Cunningham. The school said the contract agreement isn't final until all parties have signed it.

UNC trustee Lowry Caudill said there were about 60 applicants for the position and 13 were interviewed. Cunningham was atop the short list of candidates suggested by the search committee to UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp.

"The search committee's charge was to find the best person in America for our job," Thorp said. "Bubba Cunningham is that person."

In response to Cunningham's exit, the University of Tulsa has named Deputy Director of Athletics Ross Parmley as the school's interim athletic director. 

"Bubba Cunningham's service to The University of Tulsa has been marked by exceptional progress," said TU President Steadman Upham. "His leadership resulted in unprecedented achievement by our student-athletes, including 34 Conference USA championships, and increased national visibility for our athletic programs and university. He brought a wealth of energy and talent to the job, and we deeply appreciate his work. I know all of us at TU wish him well in his position at the University of North Carolina."

"We're excited to have someone of Ross' abilities continue to lead our athletic program," Upham said. "He has been closely involved in every aspect of our athletics department under Bubba's leadership and has proven to be a tremendous asset to our coaches and student-athletes. With the quality of coaches and administrators we have at TU, I am confident we will sustain our remarkable momentum."

At North Carolina, Cunningham will inherit a 28-sports department that stands as one of the flagship programs in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He'll have the immediate job in hiring a new football coach after the abrupt firing of Butch Davis just before training camp in July, including the decision of whether interim coach Everett Withers -- who has the Tar Heels off to a 5-1 start -- should be the permanent choice.

"Obviously, we need a full-time (football) coach at some point, and through our conversations with the chancellor, we're all about excellence," Cunningham said. "My charge in the next few months will be to analyze the program, make a decision where we are and then what's the best fit going forward? ... Our No. 1 priority is to make sure that any kind of coaching discussion is not a distraction" to the team.

Cunningham was appointed the AD at Tulsa on Oct. 7, 2005 after he served as the athletics director at Ball State University for three years.

While at TU, Cunningham guided Tulsa through its infancy of membership in Conference USA and spearheaded a $60 million athletics initiative that included the $20 million renovation of Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium.

During his tenure Tulsa won a league-best 34 C-USA titles and more than 170 student-athletes have earned C-USA Honor Roll accolades each year for the past five seasons.

Prior to his appointment at Ball State Cunningham spent 15 years working in the athletics department at his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame.

Cunningham earned both his bachelors and masters degree in business administration in 1984 and 1988. He also played golf for the Fighting Irish from 1982-83.