“We needed someone who could connect quickly. Not just someone to provide hope that it might work, we needed someone who could immediately resonate. It became clear to me that Mack was that person.” -Bubba Cunningham
The Tar Heels’ AD, Bubba Cunningham, entered this season with five new head coaches, including Mack Brown returning to football more than two decades after his first stint. The high-profile change came when UNC moved on from Larry Fedora following a two-year downturn of the football program and hired the 67-year-old Brown to stabilize the program.
“He’s a hall of fame coach, he’s won a national championship and he was highly successful here. Actually, the summer before he came back, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame and how the staff, students, and everyone spoke of him that night, really resonated with me. He makes a deep connection to his students.”
Cunningham explains to CollegeAD that the excitement Mack Brown has brought to the campus fit right in with a whirlwind of facility improvements.
“We’ve been under construction on campus for about two years now on virtually every facility. For about 4 years we were managing our NCAA issues and didn’t really construct anything. But now, we just completed an indoor practice facility, we use it for every sport that we have, we use it for recreation sports and sports science classes.”
In 2015, the UNC Board of Trustees approved plans to build the practice facility in conjunction with a new soccer/lacrosse field. The project was slated to cost about $67 million. The Rams Club, the booster club for UNC athletics footed most of that bill. The team had previously been practicing at Kenan Memorial Stadium, but that’s not all that’s new on campus.
“We completed a soccer/lacrosse stadium, we put in 4 new outdoor practice fields for soccer and lacrosse and a new outdoor track. Plus, we built a new field hockey stadium. That’s what’s been keeping us busy the past two years. This past year we put in new field turf at the football stadium and built a new locker room.”
Bubba Cunningham explains when they decided to go from grass to turf, he knew the preference, particularly in the south, was a grass field. But with recruiting going on 12 months out of the year, he settled on turf.
“A lot of our teams are out there, it made sense to use because we could utilize the field a lot more if we put in field turf. It looks great 12 months a year, and from a utilization standpoint it’s far superior.”
For the first time this season, Tar Heel fans are able to buy beer in Kenan Memorial Stadium. Cunningham says the sales are going well, so well that they set a record for their concession sales during their game against Miami. Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill into law this summer allowing the sale of beer and wine during UNC-system sporting events, and Cunningham says a lot of research went into how the sales would work before implementation.
“We had anecdotal and statistical information, we knew about the good experiences and that the NCAA has introduced it at all its championships. We did a lot of research and presented all of that to the campus leadership. We sold it at 20 locations out of the 54 we have in the stadium, we managed it successfully and provided an experience that many of our fans haven’t had before.”
He says they conducted a post-game survey and he had never seen a survey so positive before. He tells CollegeAD, 93% of fans said they had a wonderful experience at the game.
“We had a good night overall. We sold 15,000 waters, 12,000 beer/wine, and 10,000 soft drinks. Everything went well. From a game management and safety standpoint, we got great reports back. Everyone behaved themselves and we actually won the game”