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UNC athletics director Bubba Cunningham speaks to the Greater Greenville Sports Club at the Hilton on Wednesday. (Rhett Butler/The Daily Reflector)

UNC athletics director Bubba Cunningham speaks to the Greater Greenville Sports Club at the Hilton on Wednesday. (Rhett Butler/The Daily Reflector)

By Tony Castleberry

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bubba Cunningham’s appearance at Wednesday’s Greater Greenville Sports Club meeting was more of a presentation than a guest speaking engagement.

Cunningham, the Director of Athletics at North Carolina, arrived at the Hilton Greenville with a slideshow detailing everything from graduation rates for Tar Heel student-athletes to the planning, strategy and implementation of Carolina’s four-year plan to move its athletic department forward in the wake of recent NCAA violations.

As structured and thorough as Cunningham’s appearance was, he did go off script early when pointing out East Carolina AD Terry Holland who, along with his wife Ann, was seated at the same table as Cunningham in the front of the room.

“It’s great to be here (and) I really appreciate the opportunity,” Cunningham said. “I feel completely inadequate to be talking to you with coach Holland here. The guy has done an awful lot more in college athletics than I’ve ever dreamed of and it’s been a real privilege for me to get to know coach Holland.”

The North Carolina job is Cunningham’s third as an athletic director after serving stints at Ball State and Conference USA member Tulsa. He was hired on Oct. 14, 2011, and it’s unlikely he’ll ever have a more challenging first year on the job.

In March, the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions penalized the Heels’ football program for impermissible benefits from an agent and academic fraud. Carolina is banned from postseason play this year and must eliminate five football scholarships per year in each of the next three academic years. Additionally, former Tar Heel football coach Butch Davis was fired and former athletic director Dick Baddour retired in the wake of the NCAA’s findings.

Despite all the trouble he’s dealt with since making the move to Chapel Hill, Cunningham remains steadfast in his belief that collegiate athletics can and should have a positive influence on student-athletes and the communities in which they study and play.

“The more I’m in college athletics, the more appreciative I become,” said Cunningham, a Notre Dame graduate. “It’s a great environment. You have student-athletes that have tremendous ambition. … It’s a great industry to be in and I cherish every day.”

Contact Tony Castleberry at tcastleberry@reflector.com, 252-329-9591 or follow @tcastleberrygdr on Twitter.

via The Daily Reflector.

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