UCSB athletics claimed two big awards last week that recognized both individual talents and the overall success the department has achieved this academic year.
Santa Barbara Athletic Director Gary Cunningham received the 37th annual James J. Corbett Memorial Award, given to the collegiate administrator who “through the years has typified Corbett’s devotion to intercollegiate athletics and worked unceasingly for its betterment.” The award, given out by the Officers and Executive Committee of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), is the highest honor an administrator can achieve in college athletics.
UCSB also claimed its third straight Big West Conference Commissioner’s Cup, given to the Big West school with the best overall results during the 2002-03 season in the league’s 17 sponsored sports championships.
Cunningham, a graduate of UCLA, has been the athletic director at UCSB since 1995. Cunningham started his collegiate career as a basketball player for John Wooden at UCLA and later served as his assistant coach. During his 10 years as an assistant at UCLA from 1965-75, the Bruins won eight national championships. Cunningham was the head coach at UCLA from 1977-79 and posted a 50-8 mark during his two seasons. He was named 1978-79 Pacific Eight Basketball Coach of the Year in his second season as head coach.
In 1979, Cunningham moved to administration, taking a job as athletic director at Western Oregon State College, where he stayed until 1981. He also served as athletic director at the University of Wyoming (1981-86) and Fresno State (1986-95) before coming to UCSB.
While at Santa Barbara, Cunningham has spearheaded efforts for a new athletic department facility that will house all of the offices for coaches and athletic personnel. Four years ago, the department opened the Gino Filippin/Investec Athletic Strength Center. The center is the first true intercollegiate athletic weight facility in the history of UCSB.
Cunningham was inducted into UCLA’s Hall of Fame in 2001 and has received a bevy of awards. He received the NACDA/NIT Athletics Director Award in 2000 and was named the NACDA Division 1-AA/I-AAA Athletics Director of the Year in 1998-99. Cunningham is also the 1998 recipient of the All-American Football Foundation General Robert N. Neyland Lifetime Achievement Award and, in 1986, he received the Merit Award for Distinguished Service from the University of Wyoming Trustees.
Cunningham was the NACDA’s president in 1988-89 and is currently the chair of the Finance and Management Committee and the Long Range Planning Committee.
UCSB beat out second-place Long Beach State by over 500 points for the Commissioner’s Cup, to finish off a very successful week for the Santa Barbara Athletics Dept. The Gauchos competed in 16 Big West sports and accumulated 2,070 points, an average of 129.4 points per sport. Second-place LBSU finished with 1,460 points – an average of 112.3 in the 13 sports they competed in. Idaho placed third with 111.7 points per sport, and Cal Poly came in fourth with 111.2 points per sport.
The Gauchos won two of the five championships in the fall, with men’s soccer and women’s volleyball taking home first-place finishes. Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams won the Big West during the winter, and men’s tennis took home the lone spring championship. UCSB also finished second in women’s soccer, women’s cross country, and men’s and women’s swimming.