Director of Athletics Gary Cunningham

January 8, 2008


Dear Colleagues:

With profound regret and gratitude, I am announcing that, after more than a dozen years of visionary and strong leadership, our director of Intercollegiate Athletics, Dr. Gary Cunningham, has expressed his wish to retire from the directorship sometime next summer in order to spend some long-awaited time with his family while also devoting himself to issues affecting intercollegiate athletics at the national level. 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.

We will be moving forward speedily to appoint an advisory committee to conduct a national search for our next athletics director.

A passionate commitment to athletic excellence has been the hallmark of Dr. Cunningham’s career, beginning with his service as an assistant basketball coach under Coach John Wooden at UCLA. He went on to serve as executive director of the alumni association and then head basketball coach at UCLA, and as athletics director at Western Oregon State College, the University of Wyoming, and Fresno State University before joining UC Santa Barbara in August 1995. He holds a doctorate in education administration from UCLA.

Dr. Cunningham has been a prominent national and international leader, chairing a number of committees for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), the Big West Conference, and the Western Athletic Conference. He was the president of NACDA in 1988-89, and since 1995 has served as president of the USA-International University Sports Federation. In 2005 he was honored with the first-ever NCAA Division 1-AAA Lifetime Achievement Award, an award that is now named in his honor as the “Gary Cunningham Lifetime Achievement Award.” He has received a number of other prestigious recognitions, including the NCAA Division 1-AA/AAA Athletic Director of the Year in 1999, the NACDA/NIT Athletics Directors Award in 2000, induction into the UCLA Hall of Fame in 2001, NACDA’s James J. Corbett Award in 2003, and the U.S. Sports Academy Carl Maddox Sports Management Award in 2006.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Cunningham for his outstanding contributions to Gaucho athletics, and especially for his inspirational mentorship of our coaches and student athletes. The following are just a few highlights of his leadership:

  • In 2000, our students passed a fee referendum to fund the construction of a new facility devoted exclusively to intercollegiate athletics. In 2005 our campus celebrated the opening of our beautiful new ICA facility, which includes offices for coaches, a weight room, an athletic training room, a student-services complex, and a Gaucho Hall of Champions.
  • Numerous improvements have been made to the UCSB Thunderdome, Harder Stadium, and softball and baseball facilities, to name a few.
  • The graduation rate for our student athletes over the last NCAA tracking period was 78%, the highest in the Big West Conference.
  • Under Dr. Cunningham’s leadership, our teams have brought home the Big West Conference Commissioner’s Cup six times since its inception in 1998. This annual award recognizes the institution with the best overall results in the conference’s 17 sponsored sports championships, and thus reflects the diversity and overall strength of athletics at UC Santa Barbara.
  • Our student athletes made history last year by winning the 2006 NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship.

Please join me in congratulating Gary on his many achievements, and in extending our heartfelt thanks for his distinguished leadership and service to our campus community. We wish him the very best in all that lies ahead.


Henry T. Yang