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October 18, 2011
Thorp discusses AD hire
Tar Heel Illustrated was in with a group of multiple reporters who interviewed UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp following Friday's announcement of Bubba Cunningham as the University's new Director of Athletics.
Thorp has caught a great deal of criticism regarding his decision to fire Butch Davis barely a week before the start of the season, but he's optimistic that the hiring of Cunningham---combined with the University's upcoming hearing before the NCAA and its subsequent ruling---will help bring some closure to the whole thing.
"This is one important step in Carolina moving forward. As Bubba said, these are things we're going to recover from. It's a speed bump, but this is still Carolina athletics, and it's still great," Thorp said.
"This is an important step for me in terms of moving forward, and the (NCAA) hearing in two weeks, once we get that behind us, I think a lot of this will be behind us at that point."
Thorp reiterated his statements in the press conference that Cunningham was the ideal fit for North Carolina.
He's at the right point in his career, and he's got the qualifications to hold this prestigious post.
"I hire a lot of Administrators, and when people are in their late forties and early fifties, that's a common age for people to make a really important move in their career," Thorp said.
"I think Bubba is 49. It's a great time for him to come to Chapel Hill. Of course I hope he'll be around here a long time."
Thorp told us that once he got the official list of three top candidates from the search committee, it took him very little time to move forward and reach an agreement with Cunningham.
"I guess officially (I made the decision), from when I got the list, not that long---just a day or so. But I kind of knew where things were going in the search, and I knew Bubba was a strong candidate," he said.
"You know, I've learned enough about college athletics now to know that when you do something like this, you need to move quickly, because there's a lot of attention and spotlight and everything."
"I knew when I got the names I needed to be prepared to move quickly, and we did that and I'm really happy with the way the whole thing came together," Thorp continued.
Thorp said he wanted to wait until he got the official recommendations from the search committee before officially hiring Cunningham, and once he got their strong endorsement it was natural to make efforts to make the hire happen.
"I wouldn't say that (I knew ahead I was hiring Cunningham), because I certainly waited to get the names, but when Bubba's was one of the names, and there was so much enthusiasm from the committed for him, it was an easy decision to move quickly and get him here, and we're happy about that," he said.
Cunningham has a solid background in graduation rates and NCAA compliance, and knows he's coming into a challenging situation at UNC as they come through an extensive NCAA and internal investigation into the football program.
"Obviously, I talked a lot to Bubba a lot about his views on compliance and how it should be done. I think he has a very realistic perspective," Thorp said.
"These are things that we are struggling with throughout collegiate athletics, but I think Bubba has been in a leadership position in the national discussion on this, and he'll continue to put Carolina there. I believe in his ability to come in here and make sure the compliance program is as strong as we need it to be."
Our discussion with Thorp also came around to the fact that Cunningham will be hiring a new permanent head football coach in the coming weeks.
Thorp said the timing of the new hire hadn't come up in his discussions with Cunningham as they discussed Carolina's AD job, but it's most likely that there won't be a change until at least the end of the regular season in November.
"I haven't really talked to him about that (the timing of naming a permanent head football coach), but my guess---I would be surprised if we indicated that we were doing anything one way or another until after the Duke game," Thorp said.
Thorp also hinted that it will ultimately be Cunningham who makes the final decision on the man who leads Carolina football in 2012 and beyond.
"I look forward to that (seeing who he hires)," Thorp said. "I totally trust him to do it."