John "JC" Cunningham, a Torero Legend
John Cunningham.

Feb. 15, 2013

One way to know the importance of a person is to find out if they've got a nickname.

John Cunningham, who has been an employee at the University of San Diego since 1962, has earned his share. He is "J.C." to USD colleagues and student-athletes. He's "The Lid" to players from the first baseball team he coached in 1964. He has a car license plate with "JC 33" on it for his initials and uniform number, but it has also drawn interest from California drivers with deep religious faith.

"People still call the DMV [Department of Motor Vehicles] to ask about it because they want it whenever I decide to give it up," he said.

Don't count on it anytime soon. Cunningham, 75, maintains his health by shooting his age on the golf course. He enjoys commuting from his Escondido home to the Linda Vista campus where he then transports Torero sports teams by bus to the airport or to nearby away games.

"I've been driving a bus longer than I've been coaching," quipped Cunningham, who first drove buses during his two-year Army stint.

In both instances, though, it's been quite a ride for Cunningham.

A native San Diegan, Cunningham attended St. Augustine High and was a basketball and baseball standout at the University of San Francisco (USF). Following his military service and a brief stint in the Baltimore Orioles' organization, USD Athletics Director Phil Woolpert, who had been Cunningham's basketball coach at USF, hired Cunningham.

He was USD's freshman basketball head coach, varsity assistant and intramurals director, but in 1964 he replaced Mike Morrow as baseball coach. Cunningham led the Toreros for 35 years (1964-98), won 843 games, had 16 winning seasons, reached the Division II NCAA Regionals four times and its College World Series in 1971 and 1978. He oversaw USD's transition to Division I and, in 1985, the West Coast Conference. He was coach of the year three times, including twice in the WCC.

When he took over, the program didn't have an on-campus field and players carpooled to practices and games until he found a bus to drive the team. Cunningham instilled discipline and organization, hence "The Lid" nickname.



"I asked John Baumgarten, who was our team captain in 1964, about the nickname years later and he said it was `because you put the lid on all the shenanigans. You established order."

Cunningham recruited players who were committed to the important balance of being a strong student-athlete. He had another mantra that was equally important: "If you come here, you'll get an opportunity to play, but once you did, it was up to you. I expected players to get better each year. You can have a one-year experience four times or you can have a four-year experience. There's a difference."

The Toreros eventually got their stadium -- in 1988 the field was named Cunningham Stadium -- and it helped with recruiting and travel.

Cunningham coached hundreds of talented players and was assisted by valuable part-time assistants Jake Molina and former player Glenn Godwin for 14 of his 35 years. Forty-seven Toreros signed professional contracts. Eight -- John Wathan, Kerry Dineen, Bill Pinkham, Jeff Grotewold, Mike Saipe, Brady Clark, Bart Miadich and Dan Giese -- reached the major leagues.

His players made their mark on the field -- several still hold school records in various categories -- and players, such as Steve Bogard, with intangible leadership qualities.

"He played on one of our poorest teams, record wise (1985), and I was ready to hang it up," Cunningham recalled, "but players like Steve made me want to coach longer. He'd say, `Coach, we're playing baseball; we get to play a great game. How is that a bad thing?' He was right."

Cunningham's dedication to baseball -- he coached in the California Collegiate League and served as the San Diego Padres' official scorer -- earned him enshrinement USD's Chet and Marguerite Pagni Family Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003 and the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1991. The San Diego Baseball Historical Society named him, along with Ted Williams and Tony Gwynn and others, as one of the 25 most influential people in San Diego baseball.

Cunningham said he cherishes the people he's met and has worked with upon entering his 51st year at the university. Most importantly, he has been a friend and mentor to not only Torero baseball players, but USD staff and administrators. On Saturday there will be a special pregame dedication to honor him for his years of service with the naming of Cunningham Field.

"I wouldn't be here as long as I have been had I not enjoyed working here, the atmosphere and the quality and concern of the people I've worked with, including administrators, players and maintenance people."

The feeling is mutual for those who know "J.C."

-- Ryan T. Blystone

Video Thumbnail USD Beats Valparaiso at Home
San Diego football won it's fifth straight PFL game of the season
Video Thumbnail Toreros Play LMU & Pepperdine at Home
No. 5 USD Volleyball play LMU on Thursday night and Pepperdine Saturday Afternoon
Video Thumbnail USD Hosts Valparaiso
The Toreros take on Valparaiso at home Saturday afternoon
Video Thumbnail Women's Soccer Plays BYU at Home
After a win at Gonzaga the Toreros take on BYU in the Torero Stadium
Video Thumbnail USD Women Lead Softball Clinic
USD Softball worked with Montgomery Middle School in community service project
Video Thumbnail USD Plays Drake In Fourth PFL Game Of The Season
The Toreros travel to Iowa in hopes of continuing their undefeated PFL season
Video Thumbnail The Rise (1973-84)
Short documentary on men's basketball's jump to DI and their first WCC championship
Video Thumbnail San Diego Beats Davidson 52-3
USD now 3-0 in the PFL
Video Thumbnail Sixth Man Night: The Rise
Men's Basketball fundraiser brings together alumni, student-athletes and the USD community
Video Thumbnail Thrive Elementary Visits Men's Soccer Team
Toreros put on skills clinic for local children
Video Thumbnail Meet the Toreros: Allyson Eylers
Freshman setter from Gilbert, Arizona
Video Thumbnail USD Receives Award From Autism Tree Project Foundation
The Legacy Award goes to USD for football and baseball's work with the athlete-mentor program
Video Thumbnail USD plays Davidson in Torero Stadium for Homecoming Weekend
Toreros play Davidson hoping to take home the 25th straight PFL home victory
Video Thumbnail Pack the Pavilion Night Against BYU
No. 6 Toreros battle No. 11 BYU for the first place spot in conference
Video Thumbnail Toreros Prepare For Butler
Smith and Coach Lindsey talk challenges and strategies for first away PFL game
Video Thumbnail Meet the Toreros: Megan Jacobsen
Jacobsen is a 6'2" middle blocker from Tacoma, Washington
Video Thumbnail USD Wins Big Conference Game Against Dayton
Toreros beat Dayton 34-22
Video Thumbnail Volleyball Plays USF for First WCC Play
Kristen Gengenbacher & Kaity Edwards talk about excitement for WCC play
Video Thumbnail USD Hosts Dayton in PFL Opener
Co-Captain Brian Riley & Coach Lindsey talk about the challenges of the Saturday's game
Video Thumbnail Volleyball Highlights from Wins Over UCSB and LBSU
Volleyball up to no. 7 after dominant weekend
Video Thumbnail Meet The Toreros: Ana Ramos
Freshman guard from Portugal
Video Thumbnail Cross Country Shows Speed on Home Course
The women finished second overall & the men finished fourth overall
Video Thumbnail Meet the Toreros: Kaity Edwards
6-2 MH From Playa Del Rey, CA
Video Thumbnail Second Home Tournament Preview
Lauren Schad & Jayden Kennedy talk about new ranking and preview upcoming games
Video Thumbnail Home Cross Country Race Preview
Head Coach Guarino and seniors Benster & Smith talk about the new team
Video Thumbnail Volleyball Highlights from Home Tournament Sweep
Volleyball beats UCI, CU and UCLA at their first home tournament
Video Thumbnail Sixth Man Night
Head Coach Smith talks about upcoming annual fundraiser
Video Thumbnail Volleyball's First Home Tournament of the Season
Kramer & Jennings recap last game and share excitement for upcoming tournament
Video Thumbnail Football Plays Cal Poly After 27-0 Opening Week Win
Giorgi and Lindsey recap game against WNM and preview Cal Poly
Video Thumbnail Men's Soccer Home Opener Preview
Price & McFadden preview UCD & Sac State
Video Thumbnail WNMU recap
Postgame Highlights & Interviews
Video Thumbnail #GameChangers
Who's Next?
Video Thumbnail Western New Mexico Preview
Jamal Agnew & Anthony Lawrence break down WNMU.
Video Thumbnail USD vs. Stanford Volleyball UPSET
Torero women win 3 of 5 sets against #11 Stanford.
Video Thumbnail Meet the Toreros: Isaiah Pineiro
Versatile 6'6" forward will redshirt 2016-17 season.
Video Thumbnail Men's Soccer Kicks Off Season In NC
Coach McFadden & Michael Turner Preview Matches vs Duke & Elon.
Video Thumbnail Softball Golf Tournament Promo
September 17th at Bernardo Heights CC.
Video Thumbnail Meet the Toreros: Isaiah Wright
Former Utah Ute will redshirt the 2016-17 season.
Video Thumbnail Training Camp Update
Team prepares for Saturday scrimmage.
Video Thumbnail Meet the Toreros: Patricia Brossmann
6'0" freshman forward from Berlin, Germany.
Video Thumbnail Meet the Toreros: Mark Carbone
6'2" freshman guard from Wethersfield, CT.
Video Thumbnail Meet the Toreros: Madison Pollock
6'1" freshman guard from Snohomish, Wash.
Video Thumbnail Women's Soccer In the Community
Toreros host soccer skills clinic at Linda Vista Elementary.
Video Thumbnail Meet the Toreros: Juwan Gray
6'8" freshman forward from Dover, Delaware.
Video Thumbnail Toreros Open Training Camp
The USD women's soccer team began training camp today.
Video Thumbnail Meet the Toreros: Nassir Barrino
6'0" freshman guard from Newark, New Jersey.
Video Thumbnail Meet the Toreros: José Martinez
6'10" freshman forward from Cayey, Puerto Rico.
Video Thumbnail Meet the Toreros: Frank Ryder
6'10" freshman forward from Boulder, Colo.
Video Thumbnail 2015-16 Highlight Video
All the top plays from 2015-16
Video Thumbnail Jordan Angus - Male Torero of the Year
Angus reflects on his time at USD
Video Thumbnail Malina Hood - Female Torero of the Year
Malina Hood looks back at her USD career
Video Thumbnail NCAA Tournament Preview
San Diego faces Vanderbilt in first round
Video Thumbnail 2016 Celebration of Excellence
Behind the Scenes at the COE
Video Thumbnail Toreros Participate in Linda Vista Parade
Toreros Participate in Linda Vista Parade

Video Thumbnail Men's Tennis senior Day
The Toreros host LMU and Pepperdine Saturday and Sunday
Video Thumbnail Softball WCC Preview
The Toreros host Saint Mary's Saturday and Sunday
Video Thumbnail 2016 San Diego Crew Classic
The Toreros show speed against the nation's top crews
Video Thumbnail The Torero Baseball Experience
Kris Bryant & Brian Matusz reflect on their time at USD
Video Thumbnail MBB Senior Night
Jito Kok and Duda Sanadze prepare for the final home game
Video Thumbnail USD Baseball Season Preview
Season starts at No. 3 Vanderbilt February 19
Video Thumbnail USD Softball Season Preview
Season starts February 12
Video Thumbnail UCLA Preview
USD travels to No. 9 UCLA Friday
Video Thumbnail Toreros Host Kentucky Saturday
USD looks to defend home court against No. 22 Kentucky
Video Thumbnail Toreros Host Pepperdine & LMU
USD returns home after four-game road trip
Video Thumbnail Toreros Team Up with PYBL
Men's Basketball hosts annual clinic for Challenged Division
Video Thumbnail Men's Tennis 2016
USD opens at home vs UC Irvine and UCSD Saturday
Video Thumbnail BYU Preview
Preview of USD women's basketball WCC opener vs. BYU.
Video Thumbnail City Championship Highlights
Relive the Toreros' Upset over SDSU at Petco Park
Video Thumbnail Toreros to Host Hope International
The 9-1 Toreros will host Hope International in their final game before WCC play
Video Thumbnail Toreros Stun Aztecs at Petco
Postgame reaction and press conferences
Video Thumbnail Toreros Return Home
USD will host Bethesda before Sunday's City Championship at Petco Park
Video Thumbnail Men's Basketball Season Tickets
Starting as Low as $99
Video Thumbnail Butler Preview
Pono Keni and Coach Lindsey talk about Saturday's Senior Day game against Butler
Video Thumbnail CSUN Preview
Coach Fisher and forward Maya Hood talk about Tuesday's home-opener against CSUN
Video Thumbnail USC Preview
Coach Smith and Brett Bailey preview the season opener at USC
Video Thumbnail Davidson Preview
Jonah Hodges and Dale Lindsey talk about Jonah's return and preview Davidson game
Video Thumbnail San Diego Fall Classic Preview
Coach Dagman previews the San Diego Fall Classic
Video Thumbnail Nevada Preview
USD's Women's Basketball team will start their season at Nevada this weekend
Video Thumbnail USD Men's Basketball - The Origins (1955-1973)
A Glance at the Beginnings of Torero Hoops
Video Thumbnail Campbell Preview
Coach Lindsey and Jeff Starr preview Campbell
Video Thumbnail Stetson Preview
Coach Lindsey and Jereke Armstrong talk about the season so far
Video Thumbnail WCC Media Day
Behind the scenes with Men's and Women's Basketball at WCC media day
Video Thumbnail Warner Recap
Dale Lindsey and Anthony Lawrence on USD's 45-14 win
Video Thumbnail Warner Preview

Anthony Lawrence and Coach Lindsey preview game vs. Warner
Video Thumbnail Torero Community Service

USD Athletics helps out at Father Joe's Village in downtown San Diego
Video Thumbnail Men's Basketball Camp Update

Kok and Carter talk about the upcoming season
Video Thumbnail Drake Preview

Toreros host Bulldogs for Homecoming game
Video Thumbnail Dayton Preview

Toreros look for 4th straight win
Video Thumbnail LMU Preview

Pack the Stadium Night
Video Thumbnail ITA All-American's Preview

Petronijevic, Angus, & Vittek Prepare
Video Thumbnail Marist Preview

USD Looks to Extend Home Win Streak
Video Thumbnail Valparaiso Preview

Toreros First True Road Game of 2015
Video Thumbnail CSUN and UCSB Preview

Toreros Look to Extend Win Streak
Video Thumbnail Aztec Invite Recap

Both Squads Finish Second
Video Thumbnail SDSU Preview

Toreros Take on Cross-town Rival
Video Thumbnail WNMU Recap

Highlights from 45-21 win
Video Thumbnail 2015 Home Opener

Previewing Western New Mexico
Video Thumbnail Volleyball Tournament Preview

A preview of the USD Tournament
Video Thumbnail Men's Soccer Season Opener
Previewing No. 16 Cal
Video Thumbnail Training Camp Update
Coach Lindsey Recaps the First Two Weeks
Video Thumbnail 2015 WSOC Preview
A brief preview of the 2015 Toreros.


  • Loading Tweets...
    1 second ago

West Coast Conference USD
» «