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Wednesday, February 20 , 2019, 5:54 am | Fair 38º

Sports: A Noozhawk Partnership with Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, The Lab, and American Riviera Bank

Cunningham to Retire from UCSB Helm

After 13 years at top, athletics director stepping down from Gauchos program this summer.

UCSB Athletic Director Gary Cunningham, the head Gaucho since 1995, announced Tuesday that he will retire this summer.{mosimage}

“I am proud of what we have accomplished in my twelve and a half years,” Cunningham said. “The accomplishments were not a one-person effort. Everyone has contributed and I am grateful to all of the staff, coaches and student-athletes. As a department we have achieved a great deal without compromising our student-athletes.”

Cunningham has indeed had success during his tenure.

UCSB has won six of the last seven Big West Conference Commissioner’s Cups, representing the league’s all-sports champion; numerous teams and individuals have advanced to NCAA postseason play; and the 2006 Gauchos soccer team won the school’s second Division I national championship. Cunningham also hired some of UCSB’s most successful coaches, including men’s tennis coach Marty Davis, former softball coach Kristy Schroeder, men’s soccer coach Tim Vom Steeg,  women’s soccer coach Paul Stumpf, men’s water polo coach Wolf Wigo  and men’s basketball coach Bob Williams.

Gauchos student-athletes have had unparalleled academic success during that time. In the most recent NCAA tracking period, UCSB student-athletes achieved a graduation rate of nearly 80 percent, the highest among Big West schools.

In addition, in 2000, Cunningham oversaw the passage of a student-fee referendum that resulted in the construction of a new facility devoted exclusively to intercollegiate athletics. The complex opened in 2005 and houses the offices of all coaches and administrators as well as a weight room, training room, student-athlete service center, auditorium and classroom. Cunningham also oversaw significant improvements to the Thunderdome, Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, Harder Stadium and Campus Softball Diamond.

UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang had high praise for the man he hired in 1995.

“With his tremendous legacy and stature, he will continue to make important contributions to the promotion of athletics and our understanding of their impact on society," Yang said.

Cunningham arrived at UCSB after successful stints as athletics director at Fresno State, Wyoming and Western Oregon State College. Prior to that, he spent two years as the men’s basketball coach at UCLA, where he played basketball for legendary coach John Wooden and later assisted him on the Bruins’ bench for 10 years.

Yang said an advisory committee would be formed and a national search would be undertaken for Cunningham’s replacement.

Bill Mahoney is UCSB‘s assistant athletics director.

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