Bubba Cunningham successfully steered North Carolina’s scandal-ridden athletic department through a prolonged NCAA investigation while at the same time overseeing a period of facility expansion and competitive success.
Friday, he was rewarded with a new six-year contract to remain the Tar Heels’ athletic director.
The deal, which includes a base salary of $740,440 and runs through June 2023, was approved by UNC’s Board of Trustees last week.
“I deeply appreciate Bubba’s commitment, day in and day out, to our student-athletes, coaches and university,” UNC chancellor Carol Folt said in statement announcing Cunningham’s extension. “He is a key member of my executive team and his dedication to the student-athlete experience, both on and off the field, is just one example of why he is such an important leader in the field of college athletics and student success both at Carolina and in the United States.”
Cunningham has been in charge of the Tar Heels’ athletic program since arriving in 2011, just as the NCAA’s involvement in the case surrounding UNC’s African and Afro-American Studies department was beginning to heat up.
His efforts helped bring about numerous reforms to address the academic problems and provide more and better oversight of athletes’ performance in the classroom. He was also a key figure in UNC’s successful defense against allegations of five major NCAA violations.
During Cunningham’s watch, UNC athletes have made steady academic improvement, earning a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better for the past two years with 16 teams earning a perfect 1,000 Academic Progress Rate in 2015-16. Over the same period, the Tar Heels have logged more than 25,000 hours of community service while winning nine national championships and an ACC Coastal Division title in football.
On the facilities front, UNC recently broke ground on a major project — to be completed in the fall of 2018 — that will include a new football practice facility, a lacrosse/soccer stadium, field hockey stadium and track complex.
In addition to his duties at UNC, Cunningham serves as president of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and is his seventh year as a member of the ACC’s television committee.
“Carolina Athletics’ mission is to educate and inspire through athletics and I am honored and excited to continue to work each day with our talented student-athletes, dedicated coaches and staff, and committed university colleagues,’’ Cunningham said. “Thank you to Chancellor Folt, as well as to the Boards of Trustees and Board of Governors, for continuing to provide me with this incredible opportunity.”