Cutting Room Floor: Bubba Cunningham
For our June 2012 issue of Tar Heel Monthly (in mailboxes mid-May), Adam Lucas sat down with Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham. The following are some impressions we didn't have room for in the magazine.
You come away with one overwhelming impression after spending any time with Bubba Cunningham: he listens intently. For many people who have worked their way through the ranks of college athletic departments, listening is something they do to pass the time until it's time for them to talk again. You don't get that sense with Cunningham. Instead, as he asks questions--both personal and professional--you get the impression he's truly interested in the response.
Part of that is filling the role of being the "new guy." Six months into the job, he's still not quite ready to make any profound changes, although his first big hire, football coach Larry Fedora, has been a smash hit in the public speaking and generating buzz departments (the verdict on the most important department, winning games, won't come until this fall or later). That doesn't mean there have been no tangible signs of a new regime. That viral Jump Around UNC athletics video couldn't have happened without an AD open to change for the annual all-sports banquet, not to mention willing to poke a little fun at himself. But Cunningham has largely spent his first months on the job gathering information about the athletic department and personnel he's inherited. On a recent flight back from New Orleans with Roy Williams, much of Cunningham's time was spent hearing stories from Williams about games and memories from earlier in Williams's Carolina career. They were stories some Tar Heel fans might take for granted, but ones that were essential for the new athletic director to shade in some of his Carolina blue background.
It's not just one-on-one listening, either. Cunningham has actively solicited feedback, in the form of surveys, from every member of the athletic department. Carolina athletics is beginning a strategic planning process, and the feedback from those surveys will help shape the direction of that plan.
The full text of our Q&A, including how he plans to involve Tar Heel fans in the strategic planning process and how he envisions Carolina's role in the changing landscape of college sports, is available in our June issue.