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Directing A Coaches-Led Department With North Carolina’s Bubba Cunningham

Guest Bubba Cunningham, North Carolina
15:39 min watch


North Carolina Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham and ADU’s Tai M. Brown sit down at the 2022 Women Leaders Convention for a conversation on the concept of a “coaches-led department,” in which the culture, tone and values for Tar Heels Athletics are set by the head coaches on staff. Cunningham: “The coaches are really the ones that lead the department. It started with Coach Smith, Coach Williams took over, and they’re the ones that really share their wealth of knowledge with the other coaches.” Cunningham reflects on the challenges he faced when arriving in Chapel Hill and his early focus on “policies and procedures” as the department developed its four core values. He also discusses the process of bringing on new coaches and the importance of staying agile in the industry’s current landscape.

The conversation is indexed below for efficient viewing (click the time stamp to jump to a specific question/topic).

  • - When you arrived at North Carolina, how did you navigate learning the culture of the institution while implementing your own ideas? How have you stayed consistent yet agile over the last 11 years?
  • - What's the process for bringing new coaches into the department, since so much of the culture is set by the coaching staff?
  • - UNC Football Head Coach Mack Brown has a talent for getting everyone on the same page for the sole purpose of bettering the game; how does that apply to his role within your department?
  • - What do you learn from your head coaches?
  • - How do you plan for the inevitable fact that coaches will eventually leave the department?
  • - How do you stay agile, consistent and able to operate from 50,000 feet yet also knowledgeable about what's happening at a granular level in your department?
  • - How do you discern someone's values during the interview process?
  • - The department has four values - did you bring those with you or did you establish those after getting to know the institution?
  • - Did you intentionally plan to focus on policies and procedures for the first few years of your tenure?