Bubba Cunningham Q&A

Inside Carolina
Posted Dec 20, 2013


CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham spoke to reporters following the P.J. Hairston announcement on Friday afternoon. IC's coverage includes the audio and full transcript of that interview.

Cunningham
Listen to Audio (8:16)

Opening comments:
“Obviously, you never want to be in this situation where a student-athlete isn’t able to participate. We’ve taken a long time to get to this point and it’s very disappointing for P.J. (Hairston) and his family. He has been terrific, as Roy has said in the past six months during this entire process. We’re at the unfortunate time now that we’re not going to seek reinstatement for him.”

When was the decision made by the administration?
“Ultimately, it was made on Tuesday when we submitted the reinstatement for Leslie (McDonald). We have spent six months gathering all kinds of information and interviewed people all the way up until last week. We tried to do everything we could possibly do to get both kids back playing. I mean that’s what they love to do and we love having them here but we had enough information that we all agreed upon with the university and the NCAA to submit reinstatement for Leslie but we just didn’t have it for P.J.”

When did you realize that the issues with P.J. were more dire than the ones surrounding Leslie?
“Just throughout the entire process. We were gathering information the whole time and I’m sure there’s a specific point in time where things changed but ultimately we were just doing everything we could possibly do to gather information and it was right up until last week.”

What was the conversation like with P.J. and his parents?
“Very difficult, very emotional. He’s been hopeful the entire time. We’ve all been hopeful the entire time that he would be able to play again but by the time we gathered all of the information and worked with the NCAA it just wasn’t there.”

Was P.J. ever dishonest with the coaching staff, compliance or the NCAA and was that a factor in the decision?
“Everything was a factor in the decision, all of the information that we collected. We tried to reconcile all of it with the information we collected from a lot of people and at the end of the day we just didn’t think we had enough in conjunction with the NCAA to submit for reinstatement.”

Did you believe the information you gathered wouldn’t merit the right to an appeal from the NCAA?
“Well we work with the NCAA and our own department, own staff, university council to gather information and we have to agree on the facts. As you saw as we did the other day, once we get the information and we know then we try to release it. That’s what we did in Leslie’s case. As soon as we got the reinstatement back we released it so we’re working with the NCAA to gather it and we do it together. Once we agree on the facts then we can move forward with it.”

What does this mean for P.J. moving forward and is he allowed to participate with the team in any capacity moving forward?
“Yeah he can but P.J. is going to take some time to think about what he’d like to do next. Participation here is not an option. Being on the team is an option but he has a lot of different options ahead of him and I think he’d like to take some time to think about it.”

Were you the one to meet with him personally to break the news to him?
“I met with him personally and his mother on Wednesday. As soon as we knew what direction we were headed, I wanted to get with him and let them know what our decision was in conjunction with all of the information that we had.”

Was that meeting with P.J. before or after the game against Texas?
“It was before the game.”

What kind of issues arose to make the gathering of information such a long and drawn out process?
“Just trying to be thorough. Our whole goal in the entire review was to get those students back on the court. As much information as we could possibly get is what we were trying to do. It’s been lasting a long time and you guys all know that. Ideally, we were hoping to get it done before school started. We were hoping to get it done before practice started, hoping to get it done before games started but there’s a pretty typical process in the NCAA that if you have extra benefits that exceed $700 then you’re going to be out 30 percent. Those were some markers along the way that we were hoping to hit but trying to gather information to put the students in the best position possible. We just didn’t make any of those and we finally got to the conclusion on Tuesday.”

Did you guys do any kind of preliminary determination of roughly how much in improper benefits he received?
“We continued to gather information right up until the very end. We do as much as we can as fast as we can with the information we have available. Ultimately we had to make our final decision this past Tuesday.”

Were there any differences in what the NCAA found versus what the university found?
“No. We do the review together. We gather the information together and then we have to agree on the facts so you have a lot of different opinions, ideas and thoughts of what occurred and then you have to agree on what you’ve heard.”

Even though you can’t give a name, was an agent involved in this investigation?
“We looked at every available piece of information. I don’t want to go into a lot of detail. I can’t but I think Roy did a really nice job talking about the process. The process is that the university and the NCAA work together to gather information but the communication to others involved is pretty limited. The information is available to me. It’s available to the compliance office but we can’t communicate that to the coaches and other people involved in the review.”

With the McDonald situation and this with P.J., too, it seemed like there was some evidence of this stuff on social media in terms of them receiving various benefits. Is that a lesson for you guys going forward to monitor that stuff more closely?
“We work really hard, every sport works very hard, the University works hard, the department works hard, to monitor social media. And we’ve done a very good job of that, but we have to get better. We have to get better every single day. Every person in the department, every program, just like the teams are getting better, we all have to get better at what we do. That’s a significant area that’s growing very quickly.”

Will P.J. have any involvement with the program? Can he sit on the bench or attend practice? Do you know at this point moving forward?
“No, we don’t. Coach and I haven’t even had a chance to talk about that. And again, the same support that Coach is talking about for P.J., the entire University community has for him. We want him to have a great career whenever he chooses and we’re hopeful that he gives it thoughtful consideration and we’re going to support him in whatever he chooses to do next.”

You know what you do inside the walls to prevent this, but outside the walls, the perception is that the NCAA can’t stay away from UNC. How do you answer to that?
“We’ve got to continue to do a great job in educating students and we think we do a very good job of that. But we have 800 student-athletes that are making independent decisions every day. We’ve got how many thousand employees, so we all make mistakes. We all make poor choices. And our job is to continue to educate, to monitor and then to report as we find things. And we’re going to continue to try to get better to do that.”

I know you said you can’t go into too much detail –
“I can’t go into any detail on the specifics of what we’re gathering.”

So you couldn’t say if it was more than just a rental car, accepting the use of rental cars. I’m trying to get a sense of what else was involved.
“Really just all of the information that we gathered, we just didn’t think we had grounds to seek reinstatement after collaboration and cooperation with the NCAA.”

 


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