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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Keegan

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.

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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.

Comments

rockchalkchampionship 3 years, 4 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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Chris1955 3 years, 4 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.

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actorman 3 years, 4 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?

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rawheadrex 3 years, 4 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.

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houstonhawk5 3 years, 4 months ago

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

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ahpersecoachingexperience 3 years, 4 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.

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Martin Rosenblum 3 years, 4 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.

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jayhawkinnebr 3 years, 4 months ago

All Bubba needs to do is fire Gill and Bonnie and start over in both programs.

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jayhawkintexas 3 years, 4 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).

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actorman 3 years, 4 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.

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jaybate 3 years, 4 months ago

ralster,

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. :-)

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okiedave 3 years, 4 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).

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Ralster Jayhawk 3 years, 4 months ago

Barry Hinson not been at KU long enough to understand the politics not only within the campus, but within the conference. And with the turmoil in the Athletic Dept. with the scandal and Lew's abrupt departure, Barry Hinson seems like a poor fit...OR, alternately, bringing in someone who is a (relatively) fresh outsider is not a bad thing if you are currently in turmoil?

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jayhawkinnebr 3 years, 4 months ago

We will wait and see what goes on. Not going to judge the man before any actions are taken. We will have a handle on what Bubba is make up of in the next year or two. I just wonder how much persuasion Bill S. had on the selection?

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kureader 3 years, 4 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.

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jaybate 3 years, 4 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. :-)

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Tad Shurtz 3 years, 4 months ago

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

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jaybate 3 years, 4 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.

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king_dom 3 years, 4 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

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ahpersecoachingexperience 3 years, 4 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.

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Funhawk 3 years, 4 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.

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jaybate 3 years, 4 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.

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jaybate 3 years, 4 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

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Tony Bandle 3 years, 4 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

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Tulsa3 3 years, 4 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.

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RckChalkJeff 3 years, 4 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.

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ahpersecoachingexperience 3 years, 4 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?

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eastTXjayhawk 3 years, 4 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.

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Andy Tweedy 3 years, 4 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!

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Ben Kliewer 3 years, 4 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...

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Carter Patterson 3 years, 4 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.

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mandomax 3 years, 4 months ago

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

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Nutflush21 3 years, 4 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.

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up4par2000 3 years, 4 months ago

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

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100 3 years, 4 months ago

Welcome to Kansas, Bubba!!!!!

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RocknChalknRobot 3 years, 4 months ago

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

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phi4life940 3 years, 4 months ago

Bring Lawrence to Lawrence....haha.

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