The 13-member committee, meeting in a Carolina Inn ballroom, quickly motioned to go into closed session after a brief call to order by chairman Lowry Caudill.
The committee began the interview process in late September and interviewed several candidates as recently as last Monday in an all-day session.
“We’re very deep in the process,” Caudill told Inside Carolina after the closed-door meeting. “We began back in August and we started with collecting applicants. We’ve got a big pool of applicants and we’ve been working our way down to those we wanted to interview. We are interviewing candidates and starting to make decisions around the candidates.”
North Carolina is seeking a replacement for Dick Baddour, who will step down after 14 years following the new hire. Caudill provided some insight into the key requirements the search committee had emphasized in determining what candidates were qualified for the position.
“We wanted experience in college athletics and particularly the A.D. experience,” Caudill said. “It could be sitting A.D. or someone very senior in an organization. They needed to understand the student-athlete experience. There’s the athletic experience, but there’s also the academic [experience] and how it’s intertwined at Carolina. Someone that understood compliance was awfully important, and then at Carolina, it’s about the what, but it’s very important that it’s about the how. And so that fit, the person had to fit Carolina and how we do things here.”
According to a university press release, “the new athletic director’s first major assignment will be to hire Carolina’s permanent head football coach.”
Former defensive coordinator Everett Withers was tabbed interim head coach one day after the July 27th dismissal of Butch Davis.
“We’ve certainly asked [the candidates] about their thoughts on how you go about hiring a football coach, because that is one of the first things they will do when they get here,” Caudill said. “And so that was a good question to ask, but we also ask about additional hires and how you hire other coaches. How you hire coaches in the Olympic sports, for example. We’re very proud of our 28 sports at Carolina.”
Caudill indicated that there were “still some interviews” that would take place, while adding that he could not provide an accurate number of candidates interviewed due to the length of the list. Chancellor Holden Thorp instructed the committee to recommend a slate of candidates for him to choose from once they had narrowed down their choices.
Multiple sources confirmed to Inside Carolina that three candidates were going to be recommended to Thorp with a clearly stated order of preference. The leading candidate, according to sources, is current Tulsa athletic director Lawrence “Bubba” Cunningham.
Inside Carolina subscribers have been receiving regular AD search updates and in-depth candidate bios throughout the process. Check out the Athletic Director Watch.
Monday marked the first search committee meeting that Thorp has attended. When asked if any candidates were recommended to Thorp during Monday's session, Caudill replied: “We have candidates that we are very, very comfortable with and at some point we’ll be bringing them formally to Chancellor Thorp.”
The university hired Carr Sports Associates, Inc. on Sept. 2 to assist the search committee for a $40,000 fee. Caudill explained the reason for seeking that outside counsel.
“We wanted someone that had national expertise in identifying and assisting with the hire of athletic directors, that knew that landscape,” Caudill said. “And clearly, the Carolina community knew people who would be qualified to be the athletic director here, both those that are sitting A.D.’s and those that are at senior levels in organizations and what not. So while we could have done that on our own, we felt like with the addition of a search firm such as Bill’s that we would be more thorough and more thoughtful in how we went about the process.”
The committee has two remaining meetings scheduled for Oct. 19 and Oct. 26.