10/14/11 — New Tar Heels AD

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New Tar Heels AD

By Aaron Beard
Published in Sports on October 14, 2011 1:49 PM

AP Sports Writer

CHAPEL HILL -- North Carolina's trustees were to meet today to approve the hiring of Tulsa athletic director Bubba Cunningham as the school's next AD, a person familiar with the situation said Thursday.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because a formal announcement has not been made. The school has scheduled an emergency meeting of its board of trustees this morning to discuss "a personnel matter." The school also said it expects to hold a news conference afterward, though it didn't say why.

If approved, Cunningham would replace Dick Baddour, who is stepping down after 14 years amid the ongoing NCAA investigation into the football program. Chancellor Holden Thorp has said Baddour would remain on at least until the school's appearance before the NCAA infractions committee on Oct. 28.

The person said Cunningham was atop a short list of candidates forwarded to Thorp by a 13-member search committee that had met seven times since late August. While Thorp was briefed regularly on the search, he made his first appearance at a meeting Monday while committee chairman Lowry Caudill said afterward that the panel was "very deep" into the process.

Cunningham missed his monthly "Brunch with Bubba" media luncheon at Tulsa on Thursday, with athletic department spokesman Don Tomkalski saying he was "out of town" and that the school kept it on the schedule because it preceded the preseason media day for the men's basketball team.

The person told the AP that Cunningham has been in Chapel Hill this week.

Baddour's successor will inherit a 28-sport department that stands as one of the flagship programs in the Atlantic Coast Conference. That person would have an immediate job in hiring a new football coach after the abrupt firing of Butch Davis just before training camp in July, including whether interim coach Everett Withers -- who has the Tar Heels off to a 5-1 start -- should be the permanent choice. In addition, that person might have the monumental task of eventually hiring the successor to Hall of Fame men's basketball coach Roy Williams, though the school announced earlier Thursday it had extended Williams' contract through 2018.

It's not the first time Cunningham has been the target of a BCS program. He appeared close to taking over as athletic director at Kansas in December and had even begun contract discussions there before reversing course and agreeing to a contract extension to stay at the Conference USA program.

Since Cunningham's arrival at Tulsa in 2005, the Golden Hurricane have won 34 C-USA championships. In addition, Tulsa made a $25 million renovation to the football stadium and spent almost $10 million in construction of the Case Athletic Complex.

Cunningham is a Notre Dame graduate with a master's degree in business administration. He spent 15 years working in various roles at his alma mater before serving three years as athletic director at Ball State and then six years at Tulsa.