Athletic director Bubba Cunningham said Meaders’ combination of academic and athletic achievement was the top reason for the hire.
At FSU, Meaders coached 11 different Seminoles to 22 ACC titles, 22 All-America honors and the first Rhodes Scholar student-athlete in school history.
Meaders supersedes Craddock, who won a mindboggling 45 ACC titles during his 27 years at UNC, more than any other coach of any sport in conference history.
Meaders was a captain of the 1992 ACC Championship teams.
“I think (Craddock) influenced hundreds of lives with the kids that came through the program,” Meaders said. “And he definitely played a positive influence on mine. It’s honoring to be able to take the baton from him.”
Craddock recruited Meaders from Monroe, N.C., and coached him for four years as a Tar Heel.
“It’s a special time for me,” Craddock said. “I had nothing to do with the hiring process, except when they asked me what I thought of him — I told them he is great.”
The task to replace the most successful coach in ACC sports history is no small one, and Meaders realizes that.
Replace isn’t the correct term to describe how Meaders will attempt to fill the vacancy left by Craddock.
“It’s impossible to replace the all-time winningest coach in ACC history for any sport,” said rising junior distance runner Isaac Presson.
“But I think coach Meaders and his staff are up for the challenge … Coach Craddock had (Meaders) high on his list of replacements.”
Meaders already has a head start on most new coaches because of his college years at UNC.
He’s relieved of the burdens to explore the campus, learn the school’s traditions and acclimate to the atmosphere.
“The campus has changed so much since I was here,” he said with a laugh. “There are new buildings all over the place, and there’s a new type of student. But the thing that holds true and remains constant is that it still feels the same — it feels like home.”
His time at UNC, though a bonus, was not a decisive factor in his hiring, Cunningham said.
“That was 20 years ago,” Cunningham said of Meaders’ athletic career at UNC. “It was definitely a bonus, but not the driver of the decision.”
Meaders has a plan in place for next season, and he hopes his philosophy of putting the good of the team before individual accolades will take hold.
He said he strongly believes in an “everyone is a part of the whole” approach and adheres to the true definition of a team.
What does that mean for the athletes?
“I think the team might change as far as event focus,” Presson said. “We’ve always been a really balanced team, but now I think we’ll be even more balanced.”
In the next couple weeks, Meaders will have more time to focus on the season.
But for now, he’s happy to be back to where it all started.
“When you find the right place, and you’re the right person and the fit is good, there’s really no need to transition to anywhere else,” he said. “UNC is one of those places — it’s not a stepping stone to get somewhere, it’s a destination.”
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