May 9, 2000
Cunningham Chosen As Recipient Of The 19th NACDA/NIT Award
CLEVELAND - Gary Cunningham, director of athletics at the University of California-Santa Barbara, has been chosen by the National Invitation Tournament to be the recipient of the 19th NACDA/NIT Athletics Directors Award.
Cunningham will receive his award at the 35th Anniversary Convention of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), June 11-14. The ceremony will be held on Monday, June 12, at the James J. Corbett Awards Luncheon. The Convention is being held at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando, Florida.
Cunningham is in his fifth year at UCSB, where he led a recent upgrade of the athletics department facilities. In 1998, the Gaucho Athletic Department opened the Gino Filippin/Investec Athletic Strength Center, the first true intercollegiate athletics weight facility in school history. Cunningham also spearheaded the development of several athletics improvements, including the construction of facilities for media, athletics training and locker rooms, renovation of the pool complex, a new tennis facility and enhancements to the baseball and softball complexes.
Under Cunningham's leadership, UCSB graduated 75 percent of its student-athletes during the most recent NCAA tracking period. This figure was the best in the Big West Conference and was higher than the overall UCSB graduation rate of 70 percent. On the field, the Gauchos won six Big West Conference titles and finished in the top 50th percentile in the 1998-99 Sears Directors' Cup standings.
Cunningham had previously been the director of athletics at Fresno State. During his nine-year tenure, the athletics program won an unprecedented 46 conference championships and set season and single-game attendance records in six sports. He initiated a 10,000 seat expansion of the football stadium and was instrumental in upgrading several other facilities. Cunningham also oversaw Fresno State's transition from the Big West Conference to the Western Athletic Conference.
On the national level, Cunningham has also made contributions to college athletics. He was president of NACDA in 1988-89. Cunningham currently serves on NACDA's Honors and Awards Committee and Strategic and Long Range Planning Committee. He is the past chair of the NCAA Budget and Finance Committee, as well as the NCAA Committee on Committees. Currently, Cunningham is the president of the United States Collegiate Sports Council.
Last year, Cunningham was honored as the NACDA/Continental Airlines AD of the Year for Division I-AA/I-AAA. In 1998, he received the General Robert N. Neyland Lifetime Achievement Award from the All-American Football Foundation. Cunningham was named one of the 200 outstanding athletes during the past 100 years.
Cunningham received each of his degrees from UCLA -- his bachelor's degree in physical education in 1962, his master's in physical education in 1965 and his doctorate in education in 1970.
On receiving word of this award, Cunningham said, "It is a great honor to be recognized by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and the National Invitational Tournament. I have the highest regard for these esteemed organizations, and each has played an important role in my professional career."
Past winners of the NACDA/NIT Athletics Directors Award and their affiliation at the time:
1999 - Jack Lengyel, director of athletics, U.S. Naval Academy