UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham and his wife Tina got treated to the flavor of Sampson County earlier today, first during an invitation-only barbecue and country style steak luncheon at Clinton’s oldest restaurant, Lewis’ Barbecue, and later at a meet-and-greet at the real estate office of Sampson native and UNC trustee, Allie Ray McCullen.
It was all part of McCullen’s way of making the Cunninghams feel at home in Sampson, a place the athletic director had joked to McCullen was likely more N.C. State leaning than Carolina Blue.
“I told Bubba,” McCullen recalled to a group of about 30 during the luncheon, “that I had taken an account of license plates I saw around the county recently. I’d say first was N.C. State, followed closely by Carolina and in a distant third was John Deere,” comments that immediately drew laughter from the gathered crowd, that included ministers, bankers, a Superior Court judge, Sampson’s sheriff, the city manager and a handful of others, most of them making an appearance with a little Carolina Blue showing in their apparel.
McCullen introduced his gathered guests and then turned the floor over to Cunningham who talked about his affection for eastern North Carolina, his appreciation for the UNC system and his appreciation for the all the support that UNC athletics receives.
Cunningham also talked briefly about the NCAA issues Carolina still faces, planned construction of new athletic fields for some UNC sports, the ACC and the ACC Network, and then he fielded a dozen or so questions before sitting down to lunch, himself.
Before sitting down, Cunningham also praised McCullen, saying he was “a breath of fresh air” on the trustee board and thanking McCullen for the down-home hospitality.
The luncheon was followed by a meet-and-greet which was open to the public.
“I just wanted Bubba to see all the things I’m so proud of here in Sampson County, and I wanted Sampson County folks to get a chance to meet Bubba and his wife. They are some great folks,” McCullen said.
See a more in-depth interview with Cunningham by Sampson Independent sports editor Daron Barefoot in Sunday’s edition of The Sampson Independent, and online this weekend at clintonnc.com
Reach publisher and editor Sherry Matthews at 910-249-4612. Follow her on Twitter @sieditor1960; follow the paper @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.