A source with intimate knowledge of the search process informed Inside Carolina that Cunningham, the current Tulsa athletic director, arrived in North Carolina and met with school officials, including the search committee, on Wednesday.
Inside Carolina first reported Cunningham as a serious candidate for the open position on Sept. 23. Cunningham has not been available for comment.
Baddour announced on July 28 that he would be stepping down as UNC's athletic director after 14 years -- and would do so prior to the end of the contract year to allow a new athletic director to hire the University's next football coach. Former defensive coordinator Everett Withers was tabbed interim head
coach one day after the July 27th dismissal of Butch Davis.
The 13-member search committee tasked with recommending a list of
athletic director candidates to University of North Carolina
Chancellor Holden Thorp met for the seventh time on Monday morning.
Multiple sources confirmed that three candidates, with Cunningham
tabbed as the top choice, were recommended to Thorp at that meeting.
The committee was formed by Thorp on Aug. 8, met for the first time on Aug. 26, and began the interview process in late September. Committee chairman
Lowry Caudill told Inside Carolina on Monday that the committee had
interviewed “quite a number of folks.”
UNC hired Carr Sports Associates, Inc. to aid the committee in
conducting a national search of candidates that had athletic director
A Notre Dame graduate, Cunningham has been in his current position
since 2005. He served as Ball State’s athletic director for three
years prior to taking the Tulsa job after working for 15 years in the
Notre Dame athletic department, serving as associate director of
athletics for external affairs from 2000-02 and associate athletics
director for finance and facilities from 1995-2000.
Cunningham was pursued last December by Kansas for its vacant athletic
director position and was widely-reported to be the KU search
committee’s top target. The Associated Press reported on Dec.
15 that the two sides were working out final contract details, but
Cunningham ultimately agreed to a contract extension with Tulsa the
During his time at Tulsa, Cunningham spearheaded fundraising for
several new athletic facilities, as well as a renovation of the
Cunningham’s track record and innovative approach in marketing,
fundraising and corporate sponsorships moved him to the forefront
of the committee’s search. He has experience in negotiating apparel
contracts, radio and television deals and hiring and firing coaches,
including a pair of solid football coach hires in Brady Hoke at Ball
State and Todd Graham at Tulsa.
The Flint, Mich. product also has experience with athletic programs
boasting a larger number of varsity sports. He created a marketing
plan for all 26 squads during his time in South Bend, oversaw a
19-sport intercollegiate program at Ball State and most recently was
in charge of 18 sports at Tulsa.
Cunningham shared the origination of his nickname, “Bubba,” during
his introductory press conference at Tulsa: “I have two older sisters,
my first name is Lawrence or ‘Larry,’ same name as my father and my
sisters couldn’t say brother. I was a short, fat little kid and it
stuck. I have had that name ever since. By time I went to college, I
thought this was an opportunity to go by my middle name. My middle
name is Richard, so I would have been Richie Cunningham and I didn’t
think that was a good option. I decided to stay with ‘Bubba.’”
Cunningham earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in
business administration at Notre Dame (’84, ’88). He played golf for
the Irish in 1982-83. He and his wife, Tina, have four children:
Matthew (20), Michael (18), John (16) and Sarah (14).