Above, USC’s Sam Cunningham (39), an S.B. High alum, charges through the Alabama line during a historic 1970 football game that pushed the all-white Crimson Tide team toward integration. | Credit: Courtesy

Santa Barbara High School’s newly renovated track was officially named after the storied Cunningham family whose two sons — Sam and Randall — lit up not just Peabody Stadium but the National Football League throughout their respective careers. More iconically, Sam Cunningham famously shattered the color barrier for Southern college football in 1970 when he forcibly integrated the end zone of legendary coach Bear Bryant’s all-white Alabama football team, stampeding his way to two touchdowns.

At the behest of an anonymous donor — who gave $500,000 — the S.B. Unified school board voted to name the track after the four Cunningham brothers who were athletes at S.B. High. (The other two Cunninghams to excel for Santa Barbara sports teams were Anthony and Bruce.) In addition, the board voted to name the new tunnel — leading to the new track, new field, and new stadium — after the Hutton Parker Foundation, which gave $250,000. Hutton Parker Foundation provides organizational sustainability to community-based nonprofit organizations throughout Santa Barbara County.

Randall Cunningham | Courtesy Photos

The Foundation for Santa Barbara High School set out to raise $5 million in 2014 to help renovate Peabody Stadium, and it offered several naming opportunities to donors. Now that the stadium is renovated, the school board approved the two new names after they received a presentation on the names.

“When I was speaking to him about the track, Sam [Cunningham] said to me: ‘It’s something to have a place named after you once you’ve passed, but it’s really special to have it done while you’re still living,’” said Katie Jacobs, director of the Foundation for S.B. High.

School Boardmember Kate Ford, who went to school with Sam Cunningham, said she had “the chills” when discovering the proposed track name was Cunningham Track.

“You will not find a kinder, more modest but talented man around,” Ford said. “One of my few claims to fame is that I had a locker next to Sam Cunningham.”

The presentation also included future plans for the school’s football stadium. Principal Elise Simmons said nine tiles will honor the names of alumni and staff who have impacted athletic and educational programs. A multi-stakeholder group will decide the names, and she hopes that at least four will be decided and designed by the start of the 2021 school year.

“I’m excited to continue to dress up our beautiful stadium with the names of folks that have come before me and will continue the great athletic legacy of Santa Barbara High,” Simmons said.

Peabody Stadium | Credit: John Zant

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