The athletic department is currently developing a plan that focuses on athletic goals for the school’s 28 sports, as well as funding priorities. A facilities plan is also in the works to make improvements across the campus. Fetzer Field, home to the school's soccer, lacrosse and outdoor track programs, sits atop the list in need of renovation.
Cunningham acknowledged that standard operating procedure calls for the conclusion of the strategic plan prior to a staff reorganization based on the priorities that emerged. Due to the rapidly approaching fall semester – classes begin on Aug. 21 – Cunningham is currently “in the middle of developing a reorganization plan.”
“I would like to get to the fall semester with a new organizational structure and new responsibilities in place that fall into the outcomes of the facility and strategic planning process,” Cunningham said.
While Cunningham indicated that he doesn’t believe any of the changes are major, he also added this caveat: “Major and minor depends on whether or not you get to make the decision or the decision’s made for you.”
The changes will include an influx of individuals from outside the UNC community to add different views to the longtime Carolina administrators within the athletic department.
“I think we have a highly talented staff,” Cunningham told InsideCarolina.com on Monday. “I think they’re very capable. I think by moving some responsibilities around we get new energy, new enthusiasm for what we do and a different view of how we do things. I also think we need to bring in some people from outside that don’t know as much about Carolina as a lot of people here and get a fresh perspective of what other places are doing. So we’re going to do that in a few short days.”
North Carolina finished eighth in the final Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings for 2011-12, marking the program’s fourth consecutive top-10 finish and 10th Top-10 in 11 years. However, the eighth place finish also represents UNC’s lowest ranking in four years and second-lowest in seven years.
Cunningham made it clear that he’s not satisfied with that position in the rankings.
“At the high end we want to compete for national championships,” Cunningham said. “Then the next level down is ACC championships and the overall measure is the Directors’ Cup. So we ended up eighth in the Directors’ Cup, two conference championships and one national championship. Pretty good, but not as good as Florida State and not as good as Virginia. Maryland won a championship. We were close, but we just didn’t quite get there this year. The expectation would be that we’re going to compete for national championships.”
A significant portion of that responsibility falls on the athletic programs, but departmental support through facilities and financial means is also a necessity. Cunningham acknowledged that funding isn’t available for every sport right now.
Part of the strategic plan is to determine if North Carolina can compete for national and conference championships in every sport. And if so, how does the athletic department go about putting resources behind that goal. Department officials are currently working on a priority list in order to make the necessary funding decisions.
“If we invest additional money in this particular sport, are we going to get a result?” Cunningham said. “Do we have additional money that we can invest? What are we doing to drive revenue? So it’s not just on the sports to say, ‘Okay, get better.’ It’s on us to say, ‘What are we going to do to provide resources for them to get better?’”
One driving force in funding for the Olympic sports is revenue generated from the basketball and football programs. Roy Williams has a track record of proven success on the basketball court, while new head football coach Larry Fedora, Cunningham’s first hire as UNC’s athletic director, will open his initial season against Elon on Sept. 1.
While it’s impossible to grade a head coach before coaching his first game, Fedora has made a strong impression off the field in his first seven months on the job.
“Larry’s history of success as an assistant coach and a head coach got him the job, but the intangibles of communicating with people, being a presence on campus and working with the rest of the department has far exceeded what I expected,” Cunningham said. “So I’m very pleased with all of the intangible things and I’m convinced that he’ll be as successful here as he’s been in the past.”
Similarly, Cunningham’s overall goal is for North Carolina to continue to be as successful, if not more so, in all of its 28 programs during his tenure as it has in the past.
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