Dick Baddour reflects on hiring at UNC

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Dick Baddour still remembers the phone call quite vividly.

It was June 25, 1997 — the day of his wedding anniversary — and at the time, Baddour and his family were on vacation at Kure Beach, N.C.

That day, Baddour let his wife and children enjoy themselves on the beach while he remained at the family’s cottage, cell phone in hand, anticipating the announcement of UNC’s new athletic director.

“I got the phone call, got offered the job and went running down on the beach to tell my family I got it,” said Baddour, recalling the excitement of the moment.

Now 14 years later, that feeling has been passed on to someone new.

With Baddour set to step down on Nov. 14, the University named Tulsa’s Bubba Cunningham as his replacement last Friday, marking the end of a nearly seven-week search process.

But while that process itself was reminiscent of the one Baddour experienced 14 years ago, the circumstances under which it occurred were not.
“It was similar, but it was a different time of year,” Baddour said. “It didn’t have the sense of urgency.”

Baddour’s appointment was, in essence, a promotion after spending 11 years as a top assistant to John Swofford. But Cunningham’s appointment comes in the middle of an NCAA investigation, with a search for a new head football coach poised to commence after the season.

That’s why after Baddour announced his plan to resign in July, he stressed the importance of finding a successor in a timely fashion, recommending mid-October as a potential deadline.

Ultimately, the University was able to meet that mark.

Chancellor Holden Thorp named a 13-member search committee on Aug. 8, whose duty, Thorp said, was to find the best person in America for the job.

The committee settled on Cunningham as that person, and an interview with him Oct. 12 served to confirm the selection.

“After that process on Wednesday, it was just a reinforcement of everything we thought,” said Lowry Caudill, chairman of the committee. “Then the Chancellor said, ‘This is our guy. And let’s go.’ It moved real quick after that.”

But while speed was of the essence, the University didn’t necessarily act at a record-setting pace.

In fact, recent athletic director searches at other ACC schools have followed similar timetables.

In 2008, Duke University named a search committee April 18 to find a replacement for former athletic director Joe Alleva, and by May 31 it had chosen current athletic director Kevin White.

Two years later, North Carolina State followed a similar trend, naming a committee on May 12, 2010 and appointing athletic director Debbie Yow on June 25.

Baddour said that even the search 14 years ago took nearly the same amount of time as the current one.

The key to this year’s process, though, was to allow enough time for the new AD to settle into the role and be able to tackle the head football coach search, and Baddour said he believes Cunningham is well-equipped to do that.

“I think it’s going to be very, very smooth,” Baddour said. “We’ve already spent a significant amount of time together, and of course, he’s got my total support and the staff’s total support.”

“He said that he very much wants my advice, and I’ll stand ready to help in any way that I can.”

Contact the Sports Editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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