North Carolina

It’s good to be Bubba. Here are the details of UNC AD’s $740,000 contract.

UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham during a football game at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill on Sept. 2, 2017.
UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham during a football game at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill on Sept. 2, 2017. cseward@newsobserver.com

UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham has a new annual salary of $740,440, reflecting a 4.9 percent pay bump, according to a six-year contract that was publicly released this week.

The contract was approved by the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees on Nov. 1. In addition to the salary, Cunningham will receive $200,000 a year in deferred compensation payments for the next five years, a provision that was approved in early November by the UNC system’s Board of Governors. It was the first time an employee other than UNC chancellors or the president received that type of compensation, which is a tax-advantaged retirement contribution.

Earlier this month, university officials declined to release Cunningham’s contract, saying it had not been signed. The contract was included in materials for the Board of Trustees’ meetings this week.

Here are some highlights from the contract.

Base salary

Cunningham’s new salary took effect Nov. 1. His base salary is $740,440, and he will receive $60,000 a year for entertainment and other expenses and legal fees up to $20,000 in connection with the contract negotiation.

Big-win bonuses

He also has the possibility of receiving incentive bonuses, including payments equaling one month’s salary if the football team goes to a bowl game and the men’s and women’s basketball teams go to the NCAA tournament.

Specific bonuses would be awarded, ranging in amounts of $35,000 if UNC’s football team were to win the coastal division of the Atlantic Coast Conference to $100,000 if UNC were to win the national football championship. In men’s basketball, the payments would range from $50,000 for an ACC championship to $100,000 for a national championship. In women’s basketball, bonuses for the same goals would range from $35,000 to $75,000. For other varsity sports, the top payments would range from $5,000 to $25,000.

Cunningham would be eligible for $20,000 if the university finishes in the top 25 nationally of Director’s Cup athletic standings and double that amount if UNC ranks in the top 10 nationally.

Academic incentives

There are also academic incentives. He could receive one-eighth of his salary if the NCAA-defined Academic Progress Rate and Graduation Success Rate hit certain thresholds.

Deferred payments

The 4.9 percent pay raise was just under a new legislatively mandated 5 percent threshold that triggers extra reporting and consultation with the system Board of Governors. Although the board overwhelmingly voted to give Cunningham the $1 million deferred compensation payments during the next five years, several members were opposed.

One board member, Tom Fetzer of Wilmington, called the million-dollar add-on “ludicrous.”

Another member who voted against it said the optics were bad after the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions decided not to punish the university for its athletic and academic scandal involving no-show classes. UNC officials had initially accepted findings that the classes were fraudulent but later, to the NCAA, contended the classes were legitimate. The NCAA committee ultimately said it had to accept UNC’s characterization because of a 2014 rule that leaves those things up to member schools.

In a presentation to the board earlier this month, UNC Chancellor Carol Folt defended the athletic director, saying she wanted to make his salary more competitive to keep him at UNC. He has been courted by other universities.

In a statement Friday, she said: “I deeply appreciate Bubba’s commitment, day-in and day-out, to our student-athletes, coaches and university. He is a key member of my executive team, and his dedication to the student-athlete experience, both on and off the field, is just one example of why he is such an important leader in the field of college athletics and student success both at Carolina and in the United States.”

UNC athletes have posted a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or better in the last two years, according to the university, and more than 300 UNC athletes have made the ACC Academic Honor roll in each of the past five years.

Cunningham was hired at UNC in 2011, the year the scandal was just coming to light.

His new contract spells out a range of duties, including, “directing and conducting the University’s varsity athletics programs in keeping with the educational purpose of and the traditions, values, integrity, and ethics of the University.”

Jane Stancill: 919-829-4559, @janestancill

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