Thank You From Bubba Cunningham and John Montgomery

On July 12, Athletics Director Bubba Cunningham and Executive Director of The Rams Club sent the following email to Rams Club members thanking them for their generous donations to support Carolina student-athletes in especially challenging times.

Dear Tar Heel Family,

What a year! In 2020-21 we witnessed amazing accomplishments in the face of unprecedented challenges. The Covid-19 pandemic affected our lives in ways we could never have imagined, and no doubt it will continue to present obstacles as we move forward. In the midst of it all, though, our student-athletes, coaches, staff, Rams Club members and Carolina Community showed their commitment to learning, leading, overcoming and excelling – together. We are incredibly honored that all of you were with us as the Carolina Family rallied around one another to make spectacular things happen. Thank you!

Some highlights from this memorable academic year:

Rams Club members stepped up to meet extraordinary financial challenges and invest in our more than 800 student-athletes across 28 teams. As we shared with you at the beginning of the academic year, we were projecting $30 to $40 million in lost revenues in 2020-21. Thanks to the generosity of so many Rams Club members dedicated to providing excellent experiences for our student-athletes, the shortfall has been trimmed to under $6 million; and that deficit will be addressed by deferring some debt service through the University to future years. Some details of your donations:

  • You gave $5.6 million to the Carolina Victory Fund (toward a $2 million goal!) to help address pandemic-related losses.
  • You donated another $2.4 million that was originally designated for football ticket purchases.
  • Blue Zone lease holders gave $2 million of what would have been their seat license payments as gifts.
  • With funds from the Carolina Victory Fund and the use of reserves (built up by gifts from Rams Club members over the years), you provided an additional $10 million in gifts direct to Carolina Athletics.
  • You maintained your high level of giving toward your Rams Club memberships and met our annual fund goal despite not being able to come to Chapel Hill and enjoy one of the best benefits of membership.
  • The Scholarship Endowment, funded by generous donors who have made a long-term investment in the lives of our student-athletes, continued to be the bedrock of our scholarship program – providing resources that allowed Carolina to offer educational and athletic opportunities without skipping a beat.
  • Your gifts continued to provide critical facility and operational funding for our student-athletes and coaches.

Your gifts and pledges in support of our student-athletes and coaches came at a time of great need for Carolina! THANK YOU!

Carolina’s coaches and staff found savings wherever possible and pitched in personally to make this year happen. While adapting to Zoom meetings, remote recruiting and safety protocols, they also addressed the budget shortfall in multiple ways:

  • Each sports program reduced their operational budgets significantly.
  • Recruiting and travel budgets were trimmed.
  • Coaches and staff in Athletics and The Rams Club took salary reductions of 10-20 percent or accepted furloughs.
  • Staff numbers were reduced and hiring freezes put in place throughout Carolina Athletics.

Meanwhile, the level of enthusiasm and dedication toward providing a great student-athlete experience never wavered! THANK YOU!

Despite the uncertain landscape – including contract restrictions, online learning, extensive testing, and constantly changing practice and competition schedules -- Tar Heel student-athletes continued to excel athletically and academically, making all of us proud. All 28 teams competed during the Spring semester, making for a sports year unlike any other:

  • Our teams combined to record a 3.4 GPA in the Spring, second only to Spring 2020 when they combined to record a 3.42
  • Karen Shelton became the winningest coach in Field Hockey history, reaching 701 victories.
  • Roy Williams reached 900 victories as Men’s Basketball head coach and finished his career with 903 wins before retiring in April.
  • Hubert Davis was named new head coach as Men’s Basketball in April.
  • Women’s Lacrosse Coach Jenny Levy was named to the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
  • Alumnus Harris Barton was named to the College Football Hall of Fame, while alumnus Antawn Jamison was named to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
  • We hired and welcomed three new talented head coaches in June: Aimee Neff (Women’s Golf), Danna Durante (Gymnastics) and Erin Neppel (Rowing).
  • The Tar Heels won ….
    • Field Hockey won the NCAA National Championship.
    • Men’s Tennis and Women’s Tennis each won ITA National Championships.
    • Alexa Graham (Women’s Tennis) won the ITA Individual National Championship.
    • Elizabeth Scotty and Makenna Jones won the NCAA Women’s Tennis Doubles National Championship.
    • Austin O’Connor (Wrestling) won an NCAA Individual National Championship at 149 pounds.
    • 8 teams made it to the Final Four of their sport – Field Hockey, Men’s Soccer, Women’s Soccer, Women’s Tennis [ITA and NCAA], Men’s Tennis [ITA], Men’s Lacrosse, and Women’s Lacrosse.
    • 14 teams finished the season in the Top 25 of their sport – Field Hockey, Football, Women’s Soccer, Wrestling, Fencing, Women’s Swimming & Diving, Men’s Swimming & Diving, Men’s Indoor Track & Field, Men’s Soccer, Women’s Tennis, Men’s Tennis, Men’s Lacrosse, Women’s Lacrosse, and Men’s Golf.
    • 5 teams won ACC Regular Season Championships – Field Hockey, Women’s Soccer, Men’s Lacrosse, Women’s Lacrosse and Women’s Tennis.
    • 3 teams won ACC Tournament Championships – Field Hockey, Women’s Lacrosse, and Women’s Tennis.
    • Football made its first-ever appearance in the Orange Bowl.
    • Fencing finished with a best-ever 6th-place finish at the NCAA Championship.
    • Men’s Golf finished 5th at the NCAA Championship, its best finish since 1993.
    • 5 coaches were named ACC Coaches of the Year – Joe Breschi (Men’s Lacrosse), Karen Shelton (Field Hockey), Jenny Levy (Women’s Lacrosse), Yaidel Gamboa (Diving), and Brian Kalbas (Women’s Tennis).
    • Erin Matson (Field Hockey) was named NFHCA National Player of the Year.
    • 6 student-athletes won ACC Player of the Year – Chris Gray (Men’s Lacrosse), Erin Matson (Field Hockey), Sara Daavettila (Women’s Tennis), Anton Down-Jenkins (Men’s Diving), Aranza Vazquez (Women’s Diving), and Austin O’Connor (Wrestling).
    • 5 Football players were selected in the NFL Draft.
    • Peter Fountain (Men’s Golf) tied the all-time 18-hole (63) and 54-hole (200) ACC Men’s Golf Championship records and won the individual ACC title.
    • Jill Shippee (Women’s Track & Field) placed 3rd at the NCAA Championship in the hammer throw.
    • Erin Matson (Field Hockey) and Sara Daavettila (Women’s Tennis) were named the Honda Award winners for their respective sports.
    • More than 30 Tar Heel student-athletes earned first team All-America honors.

Our student-athletes and coaches represented our University in their consistently impressive manner. THANK YOU!

As we have shared with you before, at Carolina we are incredibly fortunate to have so many dedicated people involved with our athletics program – from the coaches and student-athletes who compete for one another and our University, to the staff who come to work every day ready to help them maximize their opportunities, to the supporters who give so generously of their gifts, their time and their voice in support of the best student-athletes in the country.

THANK YOU for helping to meet the challenges in front of us and the challenges that remain ahead – and for making a great year possible! Together We Win!

Go Heels!

Bubba Cunningham

Director of Athletics

John Montgomery

Executive Director of The Rams Club