Article Image

New UCSB athletics director Mark Massari says Gauchos coaches will be “judged on three things: whether they graduate their students, win championships … and have integrity. … My job is to give them the resources to do all those things.” (Sonia Fernandez / Noozhawk photo)

Just shy of an official contract, UCSB announced the appointment of Mark Massari as the school’s new athletics director.

“We are just thrilled to have him as our next athletics director,” Chancellor Henry Yang said at a Monday afternoon news conference called to introduce the head Gaucho. “He will bring us to the next new height.”

Massari, currently the senior associate athletic director for external affairs at Oregon State University in Corvallis, will replace Gary Cunningham, who for more than a dozen years led the UCSB sports program and is retiring from his position this summer.

“Athletics needs to excel like this university excels,” Massari said in what was partly an acceptance speech and partly a pep talk to his future staff.

To excel he said, UCSB’s facilities must be improved.

“People want to invest in things they can see and build on,” he said, “And they can build and invest in kids, and they can build and invest in facilities.” The kids, he said, are going to spend a huge portion of their time on the field, in the weight room and on the courts.

“If you’ve got facilities, you’ve got a fighting chance there, on the national level,” he noted.

Massari, 39, comes to UCSB with a background in communications and marketing honed at OSU, where he leads several aspects of its 17-sport athletic department. He is credited with doubling the department’s marketing and sponsorship revenue and increasing sports coverage, as well as playing a role in a $115 million campaign that resulted in stadium expansions, renovations and the construction of a sports performance center. Before that he managed programming, sales and marketing for the San Francisco 49ers and ABC, the NFL‘s broadcast rights holder.

For four years he was with the University of Miami (Fla.) as sports marketing and sales director. Massari also spent two years in the athletic department at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif., and began his career as a development intern at his alma mater, Sacramento State.

Massari also promised a “complete and aggressive approach” in the sports venue, the classroom and the community.

“(Our coaches) are going to be judged on three things: whether they graduate their students, win championships … and have integrity. That’s it,” he said. “My job is to give them the resources to do all those things.”

One of the first challenges he will be facing are projected cuts to the UC budget, cuts that will become clearer after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs the long-overdue state budget. Massari’s first priority will be maintaining the day-to-day operating expenses of the department, with fundraising campaigns meant to cover the bigger projects.

“I know a lot of coaches who do a great job fundraising on their own. That’s great; I don’t want to mess with that,” he said. “But I would ask the coaches to have a central shared vision with me on a complete athletics department.”

Massari will have big shoes to fill. Under Cunningham’s leadership the Gauchos won seven of the last eight Big West Conference Commissioner’s Cups, and have the highest graduation rate among Big West Conference schools.

But Massari has the vote of confidence from the 22-member search advisory committee, Yang, and even his colleagues at OSU.

“UCSB should be congratulated for hiring a very talented person in Mark Massari,” said Bob De Carolis, Oregon State’s athletics director. “Our loss is truly UCSB’s gain.”

Massari will be moving to the area with his wife, Kim, children Madeline and Joey, and dog Hobbs. He is expected to start in September.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at