CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- North Carolina Football is going to get its own indoor practice facility.
Athletic director Bubba Cunningham presented the plan to the Finance and Infrastructure Committee of the school's Board of Trustees on Wednesday and received approval for the project. The Board of Governors has already granted funding authority.
“We’re one of the very few (football programs) in the conference that does not have an indoor facility," Cunningham told the Board, noting comparable facility projects at Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Duke, Louisville, Florida State, Clemson and NC State.
The football program has used the John Pope Practice Field, located within the Eddie Smith Field House and shared with the track program, since it opened in 2001. That indoor field is 70 yards long, so Cunningham said the entire team isn't able to sufficiently practice simultaneously.
"It's a very good multi-functional facility," Cunningham said of the Field House. "It's just not adequate for an indoor practice facility for a Division I program."
Conceptual designs (see images above and below) were presented during the meeting. The next step will be further developing the design, and raising funds -- all of which will be private -- through the Rams Club.
“Our enthusiasm for football is as high as it’s been in a long time and I think it’ll be a really good boost for football and also a boost for our other programs as well," Cunningham told Inside Carolina after the presentation. "We’ve been kind of sitting on a hole for quite some time - we haven’t made major facility enhancements since the Loudermilk Center opened in 2011. I think it’s time for us to continue to move forward..."
School officials evaluated indoor facilities primarily at other schools within the conference, according to Cunningham, which have ranged in cost from $15-$40 million. He called $25 million a "safe number" for UNC's project. The plan is eying either the site of the Eddie Smith Field House or Ehringhaus Field. A specific timeline has yet to be established.
"We would love to have it in the next couple, to three, years," Cunningham said.
North Carolina is 9-1 this season and a win away from the Coastal Division title under fourth-year head coach Larry Fedora.
"We did hire Larry with a seven-year contract because we anticipated probation," Cunningham said. "He ended up not knowing that our penalty would be given to us in March and we would lose 15 scholarships, banned from a bowl for his first year and probation for three (years). He navigated all that, the academic issues we’ve had on campus as well, and we’ve improved our APR significantly.
"He’s at nine (wins) with potentially three or four to go. He has done a remarkable job and an investment like this would continue to demonstrate a commitment to those students, those coaches, and this community."
Board member W. Lowry Caudill addressed Cunningham and the Board by saying: "We're making a $25 million commitment to football for an indoor practice factility. ... Congratulations to you and Larry and to his coaching staff. It's remarkable where we were four years ago to where we are now. Thank you."