It’s quite true that Bubba Cunningham, athletics director at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, wasn’t in charge when the “fake classes” and problems with the football program began (he was hired in 2011).
But the level of compensation in his new contract – $740,000 in salary, $60,000 for expenses such as entertaining and $20,000 in legal fees for his contract negotiation, along with a previously approved $200,000 a year in deferred compensation for each of the next five years – would befit the job if Cunningham had single-handedly solved all problems related to the long-running athletics-academic scandal, in addition to running the athletics program, and also had won a couple of Nobel Prizes along the way.
Oh, it’s quite likely his compensation falls under the heading of “market driven,” in other words, that ADs at other big schools are similarly paid. But it also reflects a Board of Trustees whose members are wealthy business types who think it’s perfectly OK for the athletics department head at a public university to be paid like a corporate CEO. In this case, there’s a timing problem as well as a priority problem – the university just now cleared the NCAA’s review of the scandal.
And to boot, incentives in Cunningham’s deal (yes, he can make even more) are mostly related to the performance of football and basketball teams on the field and court, excepting one small possible bonus for academic performance. The problem here isn’t Cunningham; it’s trustees who seem to care not at all for the message they’re sending as to the university’s priorities or the optics of how they’re sending it.