If you are one of those people who put a lot of stock in the new AD "winning the press conference" then you won't be disappointed here. It wasn't an epic event or anything but new UNC AD Bubba Cunningham hit all his marks and looks ready to hit the ground running when he officially starts work on November 14th. Bubba paid homage to outgoing AD Dick Baddour recognizing his contributions to UNC over the course of almost his entire adult life. Bubba dropped all the right names, talked about eating at Time Out, spoke of UNC's traditions and the desire to build on the current success. Bubba hit all the points a new AD should hit in introducing himself.
There were a few issues of interest in the press conference.
The first is how Bubba will handle the football program particularly the future of Everett Withers. The answer is not so good for Withers.
“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.”
In addition to this quote, Bubba seemed to indicate that he was leaning towards bringing in his own hire to fill the football coaching job. At this point Wither is not auditioning for the UNC job but to possibly be hired as a head coach somewhere else once the season is over.
Another aspect of Bubba's remarks that hit home is his message to the student-athletes at UNC. Bubba made it clear he would be an advocate for them and the most important thing is for them to develop as athletes and students. Granted that is standard fare for an AD to say. However given what UNC has gone through with the NCAA, advocacy for student-athletes and emphasis on academics are important points to hit. Bubba also said he would be responsible for the student-athletes in his charge. It is a shame the last head football coach didn't take a similar view with his players.
Bubba indicated he would not be attending the Committee on Infractions hearing in two weeks and the NCAA issues did not deter him from the job. He did say he has reviewed the NCAA documents and understands the issues. Bubba will certainly end up dealing with the fallout in terms of penalties and hiring a new football coach with that uncertainty hanging out there but he will be able to enter the new job mostly separated from the scandal.
The old saying says "talk is cheap" so while all this is good Bubba will not have much of a honeymoon. He will have to make successful moves out of the gate starting with the football hire.