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October 12, 2011Tar Heel Illustrated continues to actively follow the situation regarding North Carolina's new Athletics Director hire, and following what we consider to be credible information related to the situation.
Wednesday was a big day in the process, as we've learned that North Carolina hosted Lawrence 'Bubba' Cunningham, the Athletics Director at Tulsa, for an extensive discussion with the UNC search committee and other associated individuals, including Chancellor Holden Thorp.
Cunningham has emerged as the leading candidate for the vacant UNC job, which has been held the previous 14 years by Dick Baddour.
While the tide is clearly turning towards Cunningham, the staff at THI is hesitant to call this a 'done deal' for multiple reasons.
We cannot yet confirm that the ink is try on a contract, and we cannot 100 percent confirm for the moment that Cunningham has agreed to terms with UNC.
In addition, multiple prominent media outlets, including several newspapers throughout the Midwest, improperly reported that Cunningham was leaving Tulsa for Kansas last December, only for Cunningham to sign an extension the following day with Tulsa.
But it appears that major headway was made on Wednesday with Cunningham's visit with the UNC people in Chapel Hill, and our sources tell us now the ball is in Cunningham's court as he looks to decide whether or not he'll be leaving Tulsa to come to Chapel Hill.
On Wednesday the Tulsa World newspaper, citing University of Tulsa sources, confirmed that Cunningham was a candidate for the North Carolina job, and it was confirmed that he was out of his office as he attended his interview in Chapel Hill.
Should Cunningham agree to terms with UNC, an announcement could be made perhaps as soon as Friday, but it could very well stretch into next week if everything's not finalized by Thursday.
UNC search committee chairperson Lowry Caudill indicated in Tuesday in the Charlotte Observer that another meeting is still scheduled for Wednesday, October 19, so the process may not be completed by the end of this week.
Other finalists in the UNC AD search include Brad Bates of Miami (OH), Mark Hollis of Michigan State, and Mark Hill of Florida.
We also heard for the second time on Tuesday from our colleagues at PowerMizzou.com that Missouri AD Mike Alden was still a candidate for the North Carolina job.
But now it appears that the position is Cunningham's to lose, and if the Notre Dame graduate wants it, it's his.
In addition to his six-year tenure at Tulsa, Cunningham has also served as Athletics Director at Ball State.
Along with being known for supporting high-level academics at the institutions he's worked at, Cunningham has also made some pretty significant hires, including head football coaches Brady Hoke at Ball State, and Todd Graham at Tulsa.
It was also under Cunningham's watch that Tulsa hired Gus Malzahn, currently the offensive coordinator at Auburn and one of the hottest names right now for multiple head coaching jobs around the nation, including North Carolina.
Cunningham, should he indeed be the guy, will also have to weigh the success this season by interim head coach Everett Withers, and whether that's enough to merit his getting the permanent job knowing that if Withers and the current Tar Heel coaching staff leaves, it could lead to an implosion of Carolina's 2012 recruiting class.
It's one of the most fascinating and challenging times in the history of North Carolina's athletics program, so should Cunningham sign a contract in the coming hours, he'll certainly have plenty to keep him busy and get him off the ground running.
Stay tuned to THI for more news on North Carolina's AD search as it becomes available.