Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Keegan: Bubba Cunningham would be right hire for KU

Tulsa Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham speaks to the press in this January 2006 file photo. According to sources, Cunningham will be hired as the next athletic director at Kansas University.

Tulsa Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham speaks to the press in this January 2006 file photo. According to sources, Cunningham will be hired as the next athletic director at Kansas University.


In answering Tuesday the question of whether he would be Kansas University’s next athletic director, Bubba Cunningham showed he has more “cunning” in him than “ham.”

“I do not talk about it until there’s a change in employment status,” Cunningham told Tulsa radio station 1430 The Buzz during his weekly appearance. “And there is not a change in employment status.”

And there won’t be until Kansas chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little announces it at a press conference with Cunningham at her side. So Cunningham was telling the truth. He’s the Tulsa athletic director until he leaves for Kansas.

Theoretically, he could always back out, but he won’t. KU is as logical a next step in his steady career climb as he is a smart choice for Kansas.

For reasons that aren’t clear, but might have something to do with Tulsa playing a Christmas Eve bowl game in Hawaii — or might he have had family holiday plans set in stone? — Cunningham’s preference, according to sources, was to have no press conference until after Christmas.

That didn’t seem like such an unreasonable request, at least until news broke Tuesday he was KU’s selection. It makes for an uncomfortable week of limbo for an athletic department that could use the momentum already created by the basketball team’s No. 3 national ranking, the purchase of the original basketball rules by prominent KU alumnus David Booth and the impending debut of highly-regarded freshman guard Josh Selby. Maybe it will be moved up to this week, if all the details can be ironed out. Either way, the search committee identified the right man for the job and the chancellor made the right call.

Bubba’s cunning, but he’s no ham.

Those familiar with his work at Notre Dame, as an assistant A.D., and as an A.D. at Ball State and Tulsa, paint a picture of a smart, down-to-earth administrator who is perfectly happy with watching his coaches’ profiles rise while he keeps his attention trained on making sure the department is in an ever-improving situation in terms of finances and facilities.

The contacts he made at Notre Dame — including with close friend Mike Bobinski, the plugged-in, nationally prominent Xavier athletic director — have served Cunningham well.

His depth of his experience makes him comfortable at negotiating apparel contracts, radio and television deals, raising funds and firing and hiring coaches. He’s made two excellent football coaching hires in Brady Hoke at Ball State and Todd Graham at Tulsa. (Hoke is now at San Diego State).

Personality-wise, he sounds as if he’ll mesh well with the big-money boosters of Kansas Athletics. I never have gotten to know several top-dollar donors from a school until covering KU, but it seems to me the ones at this school are on the unpretentious side for being multi-millionaires.

His nickname, “Bubba,” comes from his childhood, Cunningham said at his introductory press conference at Tulsa: “I have two older sisters, my first name is Lawrence or ‘Larry,’ same name as my father and my sisters couldn’t say brother. I was a short, fat little kid and it stuck. I have had that name ever since.

“By time I went to college, I thought this was an opportunity to go by my middle name. My middle name is Richard, so I would have been Richie Cunningham and I didn’t think that was a good option. I decided to stay with ‘Bubba.’”

In appearance, Cunningham more closely resembles the stereotype of a Notre Dame graduate than a guy named Bubba.

He will be succeeding a man whose legacy includes significantly upgrading fundraising and facilities. Lew Perkins’ reign didn’t end as well as it started. Perkins headed into retirement a year sooner than he originally announced after a published report about his lavish expenses came on the heels of an investigation into exercise equipment placed in his home before he had paid for it.

The ticket scandal — an estimated 700 seats between the baselines last season were held back from Williams Fund members — brought national embarrassment to the university and led to the indictments of six former employees and one former consultant. Basketball season-ticket holders have mixed emotions about their seats improving so much this season. They love the new seats, but hate that they didn’t have them as soon as they deserved.

Cunningham can thank interim athletic director Sean Lester for giving him a head start at mending fences. Lester has received praise from donors who appreciate that he didn’t attempt to minimize the gravity of the ticket scandal and he has worked hard at trying to mend wounded feelings in other areas as well.


RocknChalknRobot 7 years, 5 months ago

I would have much preferred that to the even lamer pun that Keegan used not once but twice!

Kevin John 7 years, 5 months ago

He could help in possibly bringing Tulsa and Memphis to join the Big 12.

Ben Kliewer 7 years, 5 months ago

As weird as this sounds...that might not be a bad deal...that just feels weird to type that...weird...

Chris Shaw 7 years, 5 months ago

Sure hope it's not Tulsa coming to the Big 12. That would be a huge failure.

Chris Shaw 7 years, 5 months ago

Tulsa is 83rd in the country for revenue generated from their Athletic department at just over 25 million. Plus, they just poured in millions to renovate their new football stadium in 2008 that seats a whopping 30,000. That sounds like Big 12 success to me.

Note: I'm not at all satisfied with KU's direction at the moment with the football team so something needs to change quickly and rapidly. Too much at stake for this downturn to continue.

Also, Baylor, Tech and Iowa State-The three bottom dwellars of the Big 12 in terms of revenue all make over 34 million. At least Baylor has kicked up it's football program in the last year and Tech will always be okay to decent. Not much hope for Iowa State IMO and that leaves Kansas to make some drastic improvements over the next 5-10 years. Let's step it up! There is no has to be done and it needs to be done for Kansas' future.

Ben Kliewer 7 years, 5 months ago

Thaaaaaat's why it's sucks...

ahpersecoachingexperience 7 years, 5 months ago

That's the type of thinking that leads to us hiring the turners and bubbas of the world

mtdewjunkie 7 years, 5 months ago

ok. we all promise to give you credit for "knowing" that bubba will fail from the start. ill send a letter around for everyone to sign. so no need to keep saying it for the next 3 yrs.

tdub 7 years, 5 months ago

Who was your leading candidate for the job then? That's what I thought (sticks out tongue).

Martin Rosenblum 7 years, 5 months ago

All I know is that up4par2000 has a very nice avatar!

bradh 7 years, 5 months ago

Memphis wouldn't be bad, it would add new television markets to the Big 12. We already have Oklahoma covered with OU and OSU, I don't think Tulsa would add anything. One of the reasons Beebe mentioned not considering TCU or other Texas schools for expansion is that they didn't add to the television market. If we wouldn't consider TCU I doubt we'll look at Tulsa.

Nutflush21 7 years, 5 months ago

Hmm, Brady Hoke to KU once the Coach Gill experiment fails??? Acutally, Im sure Coach Hoke will have a much better job by the time we get around to another football coach search.

mandomax 7 years, 5 months ago

Wow TK, you were so proud of yourself for coming up with that "more cunning than ham" line you used it twice!

Carter Patterson 7 years, 5 months ago

I hope Sean Lester lands a great deal himself. Perhaps to Tulsa?

I'm excited about Bubba's credentials in representing KU in TV deals. Perhaps he can partner us up with ND and move us to the Big 10 if the Big XII falls apart again.

For those that disagree with this hire, most of the reasons I read are completely ignorant. They wanted Kevin Pritchard or Denny Thume or somebody with no AD experience. They have no idea what the difference is between a GM of an NBA team and an athletic director at a major university.

I like this hire because I trusted the process that was put in place. Ray Evans and his team put on a national search, vetted many candidates, and then found the correct person for KU.

Welcome to KU Bubba.

Ben Kliewer 7 years, 5 months ago

Hmmmmm, Hoke and Graham are both in Bowl games this year... If the so-called "Gill Experiment" doesn't work (which I still say is yet to be seen...but we may be able to tell half-way through September 2011...or not, who knows?) then Richie Cunningham may have an eye for a coach who can get us back into the post season...

Andy Tweedy 7 years, 5 months ago

God, I feel stupid. It took me two paragraphs to figure out the whole "he's cunning, but he's not ham" line!

eastTXjayhawk 7 years, 5 months ago

i hope this isn't a sign of the future (or maybe i do) but he looks like Michael Scott from The Office in the photo...Michael Scott as AD, that would be interesting.

ahpersecoachingexperience 7 years, 5 months ago

Still shaking my head. How do we go from the highest paid and most powerful man in college athletics to small college no conference affliation dude from Tulsa?

milehighhawk 7 years, 5 months ago

AD's work behind the scenes.

Please - name some big-time AD's that you hoped for. My guess is you -- like the rest of us -- probably are going off school name, and that's about it.

ahpersecoachingexperience 7 years, 5 months ago

Yes going off school name is important, so is what conference the ad comes from. bottom line is ku has a base of alum and fans that are scared out of their minds thinking about conference realignment and we went out and got a dude from conference usa with ties (kind of, it was 11 years ago when he was there) to the one school that swears it will stay independent. do i think we could of pulled jeremy foley away from florida? no, but pulling an ad, associate ad, or league front office guy from the big 10, acc, or big east would of made people more confident when it comes to donating money, buying seasons tickets, heck even buying t-shirts.

tdub 7 years, 5 months ago

Who was your leading candidate for the job then? That's what I thought (sticks out tongue).

HawkInAL 7 years, 5 months ago

My Christmas wish is that you find another board to troll.

Or that you stop being so douchey.

Who was at the top of your football head coach and AD lists?

After I got sick of hearing soobawls complain endlessly about Gill, I asked him who he would've pick instead. That was about a year ago and I still haven't received an answer. If you're trolling just for the sake of trolling then that's fine I guess. But if you're an actual KU fan, why are you? Give it a rest. Just post empty posts, and when we see that it's you we can imagine the snide remark you would've put in and then it'll be kind of like a guessing game. It will be like when you see a picture in a magazine and they ask you to create your own caption.

You can be the captionless picture.

That would be awesome....

jaybate 7 years, 5 months ago

Well, golly, ahsowspursecoachingexperiencewanted,

You are just about as popular today as Bill Clinton reminding Republicans about how high the USA standard of living was, before George "Dubya" Bush and Barrack "Dubya" Obama took over. :-)

KULA 7 years, 5 months ago

Those pesky facts can be meddlesome things, can't they?

RckChalkJeff 7 years, 5 months ago

I live and work in Tulsa. Several TU fans have commented to me since this news broke yesterday. None of them are sad to see this guy leave. Hope we arent making a big mistake here.

jaybate 7 years, 5 months ago

This is interesting input, if you trust the folks you spoke to.

What do they not like about him?

I reckon Daddy Keegs affinity for him is in part ND and some one to attend Friday Fish Fries with. :-)

I understand the stories the last two days are trial balloons preparing the battle field for hiring a Notre Damer from a small school that once employed Bill Self.

But why don't the Tulsanians like him?

Others report Tulsa has won a lot of titles on his watch without a ticket scandal.

truefan 7 years, 5 months ago

The TU fans you've talked to sound like the sour grapes fans that complain on this site when we lose out on a basketball recruit. He's the best thing since sliced bread when we have him, and he's over rated and has bust-city written all over him when he goes somewhere else.

Unless he's letting ticket scandals go on under his noes and taking excercise equipment as brides for future business at TU I can't imagine why they aren't sad to see him leave. He was at ND, AD at Ball State, and TU's AD while they started their upturn in football and revenue. Sounds like a good guy to me, and a school like TU will miss him unless they can get a sound replacement which will be tough for them.

Tulsa3 7 years, 5 months ago

As someone with degrees from both schools I'd like to say I think this is a solid hire. When I was at TU I would talk to Mr Cunningham in the locker room at the gym or in the halls of the athletic building and he always had time for students. He's also a proven winner, TU has won way more conference titles under his tenure than any other C-USA school (31, I don't think anyone else even has 20). I know many are complaining that TU is small, but he also worked at ND for 15 years. The guy's a professional, end of story.

Tony Bandle 7 years, 5 months ago

"Richie" Cunningham would have been great.

We could have had "Fonzie" Self, "Ralph the Mouth" Gill, "Joanie" Gray-Little, "Mr.C-Howard" Lester, "Chachi" Long, "Arnold" Manning, "Marion" Self and "Potsie" Dooley

jaybate 7 years, 5 months ago

"Some Nickname Nominations for Probable New KUAD Lawrence Cunningham:"

~Superbubba--because he is reputedly an top notch guy

~HubbaHubbaBubba--because he is handsome

~Innagoddadabubba--for heavy metal fans

~Rubbadubbabubba--because he aooears very fastidious and so able to deploy basic accounting controls to prevent employee theft

~YabbaDabbaDubba--because he is a fan of old Flintstones cartoons.

~CubbacubbaBubba--because he is fairly young

~ArubarubaBubba--rumored to be his favorite vacation spot

~CubaCubaBubba--if he likes to celebrate KU victories by lighting a cigar Red Auerbach style

(Note: All fiction. No malice

jaybate 7 years, 5 months ago

Comparing the meteoric rise in the US standard of living under President Bill "Bubba" Clinton to the catastrophic fall under George "Dubya" Bush and Barrack "Dubya" Obama, please, please, please, Chancellor Bernie, hire Bubba Cunningham ASAP...unless he is not Bill Self's preferred candidate.

Funhawk 7 years, 5 months ago

"Bubba’s cunning, but he’s no ham."

Playing with words is fun. You gotta have fun writing or you'll go nuts.

ahpersecoachingexperience 7 years, 5 months ago

bubba has just released a statement on the tulsa journal world:

Anyway, like I was sayin', shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey's uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that's about it.

jayhawk4life15 7 years, 5 months ago

are you sure you werent offered the job? you seem to know everything and have a wit that everyone should envy. you must have been the second choice

NorthStarHawk 7 years, 5 months ago

.....and the obvious "toast" to the ubiquitous "Shrimp Cocktail".

king_dom 7 years, 5 months ago

KU should go after Florida's QB Brantley who is thinking about transferring. He'll sit out a year but it doesn't look like we have anything better at the QB spot

100 7 years, 5 months ago

Jump on that airplane Coach Gill!!!!!

(Florida will have 2 or 3 years of utter frustration before rebuilding again with a solid defense to be a national top 10 team & win an occasional SeC championship by the score of 7-3... Florida offensive recruits & players are ripe for the picking Coach Gill!!!!)

The Florida fanbase is not happy & neither is the UT fanbase....

So we lost Stoudt.... It hurts...

But there's two big programs in chaos right now Coach Gill that you have direct connections with....

Recruit, recruit, recruit!!!!!

truefan 7 years, 5 months ago

Please explain to me why you believe he doesn't know what he's talking about?

Muschamp's D got wrecked by both K-State and UCLA this year and he's supposed to be one of the best in the country?

The Florida fan base isn't happy with the hire, UT fans are mad he left because he was supposed to be the successor.

Brantley is going to transfer, maybe not here, but we could give it a shot. The last Florida QB to transfer just won the hiesman.

We probably won't steal any recruits from Texas, because they'll just replace Muschamp and move on, but if any are looking around, we should throw our name in the hat.

Losing Stoudt did hurt our competition at QB next season, but it's not the end of the world. Quinn was rated higher by rivals coming out of Juco and he wasn't the answer at QB either.

And you're calling for Gill's head after 1 season. A season in which we did not have Reesing, Meier, Briscoe, Tharp, Stuckey, Thorson, or Sharp...all of our best players from last year's 5-7 team.

Sounds like you're the one that doesn't know what your talking about, jayhawkinnebr.

jaybate 7 years, 5 months ago

"Some Ways We Know Bubba Will Be Hired:"

~A couple of days of spin preparation stories readying the unwashed masses for a KU AD named Bubba.

~Keegs doing an advocacy story today for Bubba.

~The absence of new staff stories today about KU basketball, because the staff are all working on different takes on the Bubba story to be posted immediately on the heels of an official announcement today.

Public Relations/Propaganda models play pretty much the same where ever they are used. :-)

But I wonder if Bill Self, who has not come out on this issue, would rather have had Barry Hinson become AD?

Again, the Super Conference of the merged Big East and B12 plus a school or two from the CUSA., and with Notre Dame in an east division, seems a great time to hire an AD from the ND mafia, who also knows the CUSA ADs well. Bubba will be able to work closely with the ND AD and probably be liason with the CUSA schools that will be part of the jump.

And with TCU, from the Dallas TV market already in the Big East, then the Big 12 can tell Texas, if you want to balk at this and control this, we'll dump you and proceed without you. A super conference with an East and Midwest time zone footprint plus Oklahoma and Notre Dame will be guarantied BCS credentials in football.

Texas will then have a choice. Stay in a conference with OU and Notre Dame, and continue with its own special network, just as Notre Dame will have, too, or jump to the SEC, which will probably not let Texas keep its special network.

End result: Texas stays in the Super Conference with OU and Texas and OU try to pull Arkansas out of the SEC and succeed. Texas A&M probably jumps to the SEC.

The Big Ten will try to poach Fizzou, and political and infrastructure alliances beyond sports will determine whether Fizzou stays with the Super Conference, or jumps to the Big Ten.

The underlying driver of hiring Bubba Cunningham, aside from probable competance as an AD, is that he has the connections necessary to enable liason with Notre Dame and certain CUSA school ADs as the Big 12-Big East merger unfolds over the next two years, or so.

At least that is my hypothesis this morning.

All opining of course.

Tad Shurtz 7 years, 5 months ago

Holy sh#t, I couldn't make it past the first sentence. I mean, DAVE ARMSTRONG thinks that pun is ridiculous, Keegan.

jaybate 7 years, 5 months ago

One more reason Bubba will be hired.

Bubba has large ears.

In today's media, there is some kind of unwritten rule that you have to have large ears to be a credible persona in public life. :-)

kureader 7 years, 5 months ago

Cunningham has a really strong resume. I just hope the ND job doesn't become available any time soon. Bubba could be gone before Gill.

tdub 7 years, 5 months ago

So you're actually giving this guy a year or two? I think we know the real reason why you don't like Gill...

okiedave 7 years, 5 months ago

Good hire. He is well respected here in Tulsa. He gets to move from a good university lost in a very good big city (Tulsa) to work for a great university at the heart of a perfect community (Lawrence).

jaybate 7 years, 5 months ago


Frankly, the only guy who is really qualified to be KU's AD hire right now is Bill Self and he would be insane to want the job. :-)

actorman 7 years, 5 months ago

"My Christmas wish is that you find another board to troll.

Or that you stop being so douchey."

If either of those senarios (to use ahperse's spelling) were to occur, I would become a convert and believe that Christmas truly is a season of miracles.

eastTXjayhawk 7 years, 5 months ago

Lighten up Francis....classic...

"any of you h*mos touch me, or my stuff, and i'll kill ya"

jayhawkintexas 7 years, 5 months ago

When I think of big time collegiate athetics, the University of Tulsa is the first school to come to my mind---NOT!! No Pac 10 (12), Big 12, Big East, Big Ten or SEC experienced officials for us!!! Looks like we not only scraped the bottom of the barrel when Gill was hired, we're also scraping the bottom of the barrel for an AD. Looks like the decision-makers are committed to keeping us near the bottom of the Big 12 when it comes to overall athletic success (men's basketball being the noted exception).

Justin Millsap 7 years, 5 months ago

I don't understand your logic. Aside from men's basketball, Kansas has not attained "big time" status in athletics. Why would an AD from a school who is already elite in multiple sports want to take on this project? Our most viable option is to hire someone who is on the Mr. Cunningham appears to be. We need an individual like that to bring our athletic program along for the ride. That way, even if the hire eventually leaves for a higher profile position, we are in a more favorable position to negotiate with other high profile directors.

truefan 7 years, 5 months ago

Urban Meyer coached in the MWC when he was offered the Florida head coaching job, so according to your logic he was a bad hire. Two national titles later...

Oh, and let me go ahead and smash your rebuttle. "Yeah but he was at Utah who is a nationally respected school and had an undefeated season with Urban Meyer at the helm." To which I respond, Dan Hawkins came from Boise State and had multiple great seasons and was nationally respected and look how great that turned out for Colorado.

The point is, it doesn't matter what school or conference you come from there is no way to guarantee success or failure.

truefan 7 years, 5 months ago

Good plan. Fire a football coach after 1 bad season and expect to get a home run hire next time from coaches who think they'll get fired if they don't produce a bowl game in year one. Then, fire the women's basketball coach who has rebuilt the program from nothing into a respectable team with a high ceiling and a 9-1 record so far. I'm sure we'll be able to steal Uconn's women's basketball coach after that, and their football coach for that matter. Hell, why don't we just go after Nick Saban, I'm sure he'll leave Bama for KU.

Martin Rosenblum 7 years, 5 months ago

Cake said it best:

I want an AD who can pump up the sports fans. One who is bright and full of stats. I want an AD who is clean as a whistle. A guy who is sharp as a tack. I want an AD with a tight rein and a long.......... (donor list!)

Well, Cake didn't have these exact lyrics.

waywardJay 7 years, 5 months ago

so you'll be the kansas Athletics director, comissioning a new big 12 to be overseen that defies all earthly decsription You'll be comissioning a big 12 to be overseen.

With money you squeezed from the alumni, just don't use it to buy athletics equipment, you clearly will never use in the present You'll be, comissioning, a big 12 to be overseen.

Completely filling Memorial Stadium, will be the greatest undertaking you will leverage Your greatest blessing will be titles in Allen, your fans transfixed waving madly wheat... You'll be comissioning , a big 12 to be overseen.

waywardJay 7 years, 5 months ago

wasn't going to leave you with your hand to the wind.... bitter irony that this would be the exact thing this article ended up being about......

I'm sure they would write a song about it .... if they gave a rat's about Kansas Atheltics search.....

Martin Rosenblum 7 years, 5 months ago

Thanks. But now that he's staying in Tulsa, there probably would only be a country group making anything out of this in a song. Maybe HCBS's friend, Garth Brooks, could do it! Just wouldn't be the same as Cake would do , though. Maybe, Chris Gaines.

ahpersecoachingexperience 7 years, 5 months ago

Why are we getting "crickets" from the university? Seems a little strange for this to be out for two days with no official word.

houstonhawk5 7 years, 5 months ago

This guy, or any AD, shouldn't be paid more than $250K.

rawheadrex 7 years, 5 months ago

I remember when people went to KU to get an education. I paid non-resident tuition, unlike contemporaneous illegal aliens now. Jack Mitchell and Ted something or other coached football and basketball respectively, if not respectably. My 15-17 hour semester load limited my activities. I was glad to have a part time job at KANU-FM because I could listen to the games on 91.5FM I couldn't attend because I had to work. I had to keep my grades sufficiently high to avoid the draft, for which I was called immediately after graduation. Miss K-U? Like an abscessed tooth! I would return my diploma if I didn't have to pay the postage. It will be kindling for a nice fire one day soon.

actorman 7 years, 5 months ago

Careful, marqjbm, that's way too logical for most people on this board to comprehend.

As for you, rawheadrex, if you hate KU so much, then why exactly are you here?

rockychalky66 7 years, 5 months ago

Bubba will be a great fit at KU. I looking forward for an official word soon

Chris1955 7 years, 5 months ago

I think that the fact that two of the finalist have ND connections is not a mere coincidence. Jaybate and I differ slightly on the destination conference where KU neds up. I think Big TEN and Jaybate thinks Big East. However, we both believe that there will be a Notre Dame component to either destination.

rockchalkchampionship 7 years, 5 months ago

"Theoretically, he could always back out, but he won’t."

Really, Keegan? As a future journalist, I'm really going to look up to you after this. Unforgiveable.

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