After nearly a seven-week search, North Carolina Chancellor Holden Thorp introduced UNC’s next athletic director, Bubba Cunningham, at a press conference Friday.
When Cunningham comes to UNC from the University of Tulsa on Nov. 14, he will inherit a program experiencing the tail end of an NCAA investigation, the job of hiring a head football coach and an athletic budget looking for a boost.
And though a potentially challenging transition period awaits the UNC athletic department, Thorp was proud of the brand new hire.
“The search committee’s charge was to find the best person in America for our job,” he said. “Bubba Cunningham is that person. He is the right person to lead Carolina athletics into the next chapter of its history.”
Neither born nor bred
UNC’s last two athletic directors — current ACC commissioner John Swofford and Dick Baddour — were UNC alumni, and quite familiar with the Tar Heel tradition before beginning their careers.
Cunningham, a 1984 Notre Dame graduate and former assistant athletic director for the Fighting Irish, has never attended school or been employed at North Carolina.
But search committee chairman Lowry Caudill said he doesn’t think his relative unfamiliarity with UNC will affect Cunningham’s qualification for the job.
“If you look around here, you’ll see highly successful people at Carolina that didn’t grow up here,” Caudill said. “We hired a basketball coach in 1961 that came from Kansas, (and he was) incredibly successful.