Since Lawrence R. (Bubba) Cunningham officially began his duties as Carolina’s director of athletics on November 14, 2011, UNC has graduated over 1000 student-athletes while consistently competing for championships in an array of different sports – exciting, motivating and influencing along the way.
At the beginning of 2018, the department launched “Together We Win,” an updated strategic plan and vision for Carolina Athletics for the next five years. In 2018-19, Carolina finished construction on a new field hockey stadium, track and field complex, chair back project at Kenan Stadium, a new football practice facility and lacrosse/soccer stadium as well as a new media and communications center.
Cunningham’s leadership has also extended outside of Chapel Hill. In 2020, he was named to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee, and he also earned the 2019-20 AD of the Year Award from The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA). In 2018 he accepted an invitation to serve on the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) Advisory Council. He is the past president of NACDA and sits on the board of LEAD1, an association representing the ADs from the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools. He is in his eighth year on the ACC Television Committee, which helped lead the launch of the ACC Network in the fall of 2019. He also is currently serving on the ACC Autonomy Committee and has served on numerous NCAA committees over the last two decades.
Cunningham is in his 18th year as a Division I director of athletics. He came to Chapel Hill after spending the previous six years as the director of athletics at the University of Tulsa, where he guided the Golden Hurricane through its initial move to Conference USA and spearheaded a $60 million athletics initiative. He also served as Ball State University’s Athletic Director from 2002-2005.
Cunningham, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from Notre Dame in 1984 and 1988, respectively, worked in his alma mater’s athletics department from 1988-2002. A former member of the Irish golf team (1982-83), Cunningham served as Notre Dame’s Associate Athletics Director for finance and facilities from 1995-2000 and was the Associate Director of Athletics for external affairs from 2000-02.
Born in Flint, Mich., and raised in Naples, Fla., Cunningham and his wife, Tina, have four grown children: Matthew, Michael, John and Sarah, and daughter-in-law, Emily.