Cunningham, 49, has signed a six-year contract that will pay him an annual salary of $525,000 and provide an expense account of $40,000 per year. He will be eligible for standard bonuses equal to one months pay should the football team be invited to play in a post-season bowl game and/or should the men's and women's basketball teams be invited to participate in their respective NCAA Tournaments. He will also be eligible for a bonus equal to one months salary in any year in which the average of the NCAA's four-year Academic Progress Rate for all of Carolina's varsity teams equals or exceeds 975.
The UNC Board of Trustees approved the contract Friday morning.
Cunningham will officially begin his duties at Carolina on November 14, 2011. He succeeds Dick Baddour, who is in his 15th year as director of athletics and 45th at UNC. Cunningham is the seventh director of athletics in UNC history, following Robert A. Fetzer (1923-52), Chuck Erickson (1953-67), Homer Rice (1969-75), Bill Cobey (1976-80), John Swofford (1980-97) and Baddour.
Cunningham is in his 10th year as a Division I director of athletics. In addition to his tenure at Tulsa, he was the AD for three years from 2002-2005 at Ball State University.
He was honored as the 2008-09 FBS Central Region Athletics Director of the Year, an award presented by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.
Cunningham guided Tulsa through its initial move to Conference USA and spearheaded a $60 million athletics initiative, which included a $20 million renovation to Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium, a goal of $20 million for an athletics scholarship endowment and $20 million for coaches' salary endowment.
Cunningham implemented and developed a strategic plan for personal and professional growth and development for Tulsa's student-athletes, coaches and staff. He presided over the completion of the $8.5 million Case Athletic Complex, which houses football offices and academic support center for student-athletes.
Entering this season, Tulsa won 34 league championships, more than any other school in Conference USA. Men's and women's basketball, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's golf, men's soccer, softball, men's and women's tennis and volleyball have participated in post-season play. The football program has played in five bowl games in the last six years, winning four of those games.
Cunningham hired former Tulsa football coach Todd Graham, who led the Hurricanes to three 10-win seasons in a four-year span, the first time it had been accomplished in school history.
Tulsa student-athletes have excelled academically, earning 17 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America performances over the last five years. More than 170 student-athletes earned Conference USA Commissioner's Honor Roll accolades each season, including 199 in 2009-10, and 11 student-athletes won C-USA Scholar Athlete of the Year honors.
Last year, the Hurricanes finished 51st nationally in the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup, Tulsa's highest finish in the history of the competition.
Tulsa hosted the 2011 NCAA Basketball Second & Third Rounds and the 2008 NCAA Men's and Women's Division I Tennis National Championship.
At Ball State, Cunningham led a program with 19 intercollegiate sports and a budget of $12.4 million. In his final year, Ball State completed a $12 million campaign to renovate the football stadium. In raising those funds, Cunningham secured the largest single gift in Ball State athletics history.
The football team played the first-ever night game in Ball State Stadium and developed a marketing plan that helped set a record for football season attendance in 2003. He was able to secure funding exclusively from private donors to have permanent lights installed at Ball State Stadium.
From 1988-2002, Cunningham worked in the athletics department at the University of Notre Dame. Cunningham served as associate director of athletics for external affairs from 2000-02. He renegotiated the school's footwear contract, developed a communications and marketing plan, created marketing teams for all 26 varsity sports, increased corporate sponsorship income, created a financial/equity plan for the department and served as chairman of the NCAA Division I Women's Golf Committee.
He served as Notre Dame's associate athletics director for finance and facilities from 1995-2000. Cunningham was responsible for developing an equity plan to meet Title IX requirements, completed the master plan for athletic facilities, coordinated the bid process and negotiation with Westwood for football radio rights and helped plan and complete the $50 million renovation and 20,000-seat expansion of Notre Dame Stadium. He also coordinated the planning and construction of the Warren Golf Course, an 18-hole championship course on the Notre Dame campus.
Cunningham earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in business administration, both from Notre Dame, in 1984 and 1988, respectively. He played on the Irish golf team in 1982-83.
Cunningham serves on the NCAA Division I Men's Golf Committee, is a member of NACDA's Executive Committee, and was on the Board of Directors of the Alzheimers Association of Oklahoma and the Folds of Honor Foundation Board. Cunningham also served on the Gatorade National Advisory Board and has been a featured speaker at numerous NACDA and I-A institute conferences.
Born in Flint, Mich., and raised in Naples, Fla., Cunningham and his wife, Tina, have four children: Matthew, Michael, John and Sarah.