Say goodbye to one of the main architects of the Gaucho athletic programs we have all grown to love.
After 13 years at the helm of the UCSB Athletics Dept., Athletic Director Gary Cunningham announced yesterday that he will retire in the summer of 2008. Cunningham was hired by Chancellor Henry T. Yang in 1995 and has presided over the Athletic Dept. for 13 of the finest years in school history.
During Cunningham’s reign, the Athletic Dept. has consistently been one of the premier powers in the Big West Conference. Under Cunningham’s tutelage, Santa Barbara has won six of the past seven Big West Conference Commissioner’s Cups, awarded to the school with the best all-around athletic showing. Several Gaucho teams have qualified for postseason play throughout Cunningham’s tenure, making him one of the most successful figures in the history of Gaucho athletics.
The outgoing athletic director’s influence has extended beyond competitive success to improvement in the classroom and of athletic facilities. Santa Barbara ranked first in the Big West with a student-athlete graduation rate of nearly 80 percent according to the most recent NCAA tracking period. Cunningham has also helped initiate improvements to several of UCSB’s most important facilities, including Harder Stadium, the Thunderdome and Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
Cunningham has also helped bolster Santa Barbara’s coaching ranks, hiring several of the school’s most successful coaches. Included in this bunch are men’s basketball coach Bob Williams, men’s tennis coach Marty Davis, former softball coach Kristy Schroeder and men’s soccer coach Tim Vom Steeg, who lead his squad to the second national title in any sport in school history in 2006.
UCSB was the fourth school at which Cunningham was the athletic director following stays at Fresno State, the University of Wyoming and Western Oregon State College. Also on Cunningham’s resume is a 10-year stint as an assistant to legendary UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden, as well as a two-year campaign as the head coach for UCLA. Before getting into coaching, Cunningham played for Wooden and the Bruins.
While the search for a replacement has yet to begin, whoever succeeds Cunningham at the top of the UCSB athletic program will have a tough act to follow.