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Bubba Cunningham Starting to Put His Stamp on the Athletic Department


After nine months on the job, Bubba Cunningham appears to be ready to begin reshaping the athletic department to match his vision of what it should be. According to Inside Carolina, there are many changes forthcoming.

The athletic department is currently developing a plan that focuses on athletic goals for the school’s 28 sports, as well as funding priorities. A facilities plan is also in the works to make improvements across the campus. Fetzer Field, home to the school's soccer, lacrosse and outdoor track programs, sits atop the list in need of renovation.

Cunningham acknowledged that standard operating procedure calls for the conclusion of the strategic plan prior to a staff reorganization based on the priorities that emerged. Due to the rapidly approaching fall semester – classes begin on Aug. 21 – Cunningham is currently “in the middle of developing a reorganization plan.”

“I would like to get to the fall semester with a new organizational structure and new responsibilities in place that fall into the outcomes of the facility and strategic planning process,” Cunningham said.

While Cunningham indicated that he doesn’t believe any of the changes are major, he also added this caveat: “Major and minor depends on whether or not you get to make the decision or the decision’s made for you.”

The changes will include an influx of individuals from outside the UNC community to add different views to the longtime Carolina administrators within the athletic department.

“I think we have a highly talented staff,” Cunningham told on Monday. “I think they’re very capable. I think by moving some responsibilities around we get new energy, new enthusiasm for what we do and a different view of how we do things. I also think we need to bring in some people from outside that don’t know as much about Carolina as a lot of people here and get a fresh perspective of what other places are doing. So we’re going to do that in a few short days.”

We will never know if Bubba consulted Matt Doherty on what not to do when he arrived at UNC. However he did manage to avoid Doherty's first major mistake of turning everything upside down as soon as he took the job. Instead, Bubba waited and spent the better part of his first year learning about UNC. With that period of "education" behind him, Bubba is moving rather aggressively to implement a new plan to improve the department as a whole.

While Bubba talks about this in terms of athletic success, the recent NCAA investigation and the burgeoning academic scandal in the AFAM department may be necessitating a quicker move with any newly made plans. The first of move in the execution of those plans was announced today with the hiring of two new administrators.

University of North Carolina director of athletics Bubba Cunningham announces the hiring of two new staff members – Senior Associate Athletic Director Vince Ille and Associate Athletic Director Paul Pogge.

Ille (pronounced ILL-ee) comes to UNC from the University of Illinois, where he worked since 1998. He was initially hired at Illinois as assistant athletic director for compliance and has served as an associate and senior associate AD since 2003. He supervised 11 varsity sports, coordinated the department’s strategic planning, risk management and quality control, advised the director of athletics on compliance matters and was the school’s first representative to the Big Ten Network, among other duties.

Pogge (pronounced POE-gee) was an associate and assistant athletic director for strategic planning and partnerships at the University of Denver for the past three years.

“Chancellor (Holden) Thorp and I have been discussing ways to further integrate academics, compliance and athletics and I believe the additions of Vince and Paul will position us to accomplish these goals,” says Cunningham.

“Our primary objective is to better coordinate the communication and oversight that exists with Athletics, the College of Arts and Sciences and the University administration,” says Cunningham.

Ille’s and Pogge’s primary responsibilities will be in compliance and student-athlete services, however both will assist in the administration of sports programs.

What stands out the most about these hires is the fact Bubba went outside of the UNC "family" to bring in new insights. While UNC has produced many great individuals who have returned help run the athletic department, Bubba clearly wants some outside perspective. Shaking things up in this manner should be a positive move for the athletic department. It is also noteworthy that the focus of these two new hires is compliance and academics. Obviously UNC needs to invest resources in these areas to address the shortcomings discovered by the NCAA and the internal review into AFAM department. Bringing in administrators who will have a different view on UNC's situation and new ideas from their experiences at other schools is a good decision on Bubba's part.

While the results remain to be seen, Bubba gets full credit for moving aggressively and having done due diligence before making any sweeping changes. He has signaled that the status quo is not acceptable, even with an 8th place finish in the Director's Cup. Bubba is also announcing to the world that he feels the current system needs to be shaken up and new blood should be infused into the department administration. The key is striking the balance between necessary changes and shoring up the effective pieces already in place. The impression so far is Bubba is doing a nice job of finding that balance which is exactly what solid leadership looks like.

Needless to say,  the South Building probably ought to be paying attention and taking notes.