AD Hired; Football Decision Next

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – It didn't take long after Lawrence R. "Bubba" Cunningham was introduced to the public on Friday for the media attention to turn to his first important decision as North Carolina's new athletic director – hiring a permanent head football coach.

Press Conference Audio
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* Cunningham will officially begin his duties as UNC's seventh athletic director on Monday, Nov. 14, just 12 days before the football season finale against Duke. The Flint, Mich. native, currently in his 10th season as a Division I athletic director, indicated that he will work on developing a process to find a permanent head coach over the coming months.

"I have been through three different football searches in my career as an athletic director," Cunningham said. "All three of them were entirely different, based on the situation and circumstances of that institution at that time. And this will be a fourth different situation and I'll have to design that over the next few months."

Cunningham met with current head coach Everett Withers on Friday morning.

"He's the interim coach," Cunningham said. "Obviously, we need a full-time coach at some point. Through our conversations with the chancellor, we're all about excellence and we need to find outstanding coaches that lead us to championships – BCS championships, ACC championships, national championships – and so my charge in the next few months will be to analyze the program, make a decision on where we are and then what's the best fit for us going forward."

With his official start date a full month away, it may seem as though UNC is missing valuable time in the search process as the season draws to a close, but Cunningham intends to keep tabs on the situation from a distance.

"My guess is he'll DVR our games and he'll be talking to folks," Chancellor Holden Thorp told reporters following the press conference. "I think it will work out fine. As he said, and this was really important to me, making sure that the student-athletes that we have playing football now are not distracted is critically important.

"That wasn't a factor in setting the precise date, but I think Nov. 14 strikes a balance between not having him here and having people wonder what he's doing. So that the students can have their experience in football, but still giving him a couple of weeks before the end of the season to be around the locker room and the team and get a feel from them on what they want to see in a head football coach."

To that point, Cunningham said that once he arrives in Chapel Hill for good, he intends to stay in the background and let Withers coach the team and focus on the players.

There's an old adage that suggests that all athletic directors have a list of coaching names hidden away in their desk, but Cunningham says he doesn't have one of those lists.

"You always talk about personnel and you're always thinking about what's next," Cunningham said. "But I'm not one of those A.D.s that has a top drawer that lists what I'm going to do next."

Regarding a possible pool of candidates, Cunningham said, "This is a very attractive job to an awful lot of people."

Thorp told reporters that he "would be surprised" if UNC made a decision on the permanent head football coach before the Duke game.

"I'm absolutely confident that he's going to come to me with a great recommendation about how to move forward," Thorp said.

* North Carolina will meet with the NCAA's Committee on Infractions on Friday, Oct. 28, in the wake of nine allegations delivered to the school in June. Cunningham said the current NCAA situation "really didn't" play a factor in his decision to take the job. He has read all of the documents related to the investigation.

"The history here is just so rich in that there are no major infractions, and so that is a blemish, but we will continue to work on the compliance area, insure to the best of our ability that those things don't happen in the future," Cunningham said. "But it does happen occasionally. It's unfortunate when it does and it's kind of a part of life, unfortunately. But you have to learn from those mistakes and make sure that we don't make those as we go forward."

Cunningham added that while he hasn't discussed the Committee on Infractions meeting with Thorp, he doesn't intend to attend the meeting in Indianapolis.

* Cunningham admitted to drinking the NCAA Kool-Aid during his opening comments, but made sure during the question-and-answer segment to stress that he was referring to the organization's marketing plan that highlights the fact that only a handful of student-athletes will play sports professionally.

"That's really all I meant with the joke about the Kool-Aid," Cunningham said. "I haven't been to Indianapolis to have any of that Kool-Aid."

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