Former ESPN analyst Ed Cunningham says Iowa's handling of C.J. Beathard helped drive him to quit

Aaron Young
Hawk Central

Ed Cunningham has resigned from one of the top jobs in sports broadcasting prior to the start of this year's college football season because of the damage players take in games he covers.

The former ESPN broadcaster revealed to The New York Times in a story published Wednesday that the last straw was when he was working the Outback Bowl in January when the Hawkeyes faced Florida. Ex-Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard — now with the San Fransisco 49ers — was hobbled after taking continuous blows.

Former Iowa C.J. Beathard (16) dives for the end zone as Florida Gators defensive back Marcell Harris (26) defends in the second quarter during the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.

Beathard was left in the game until the final three minutes of the 30-3 loss to the Gators.

Cunningham told the NYT that he has known some of Iowa's coaches "for years."

“And it was hard for me not to walk down after the game and just say: ‘Dudes, what are you doing? Really? What are you doing?’ These are just kids,” he said.

MORE: Ex-ESPN analyst Ed Cunningham says Iowa football 'abused' C.J. Beathard

Cunningham spent nearly 20 years as a broadcaster for ESPN and ABC. He was also the captain of Washington's national championship team in 1991 and was later a third-round NFL draft pick.

“I take full ownership of my alignment with the sport,” he said. “I can just no longer be in that cheerleader’s spot.”

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Beathard told reporters after the Outback Bowl loss that he "wanted to stay in there as much as possible.” But he even acknowledged that he "couldn’t run for anything."

When asked about the decision of leaving Beathard in, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said "if he's going to be in harm’s way, then we’re going to get him out of there, certainly,” adding that a medical decision would need to be made by team doctors and trainers "first and foremost." 

But if he could go, Beathard was allowed to go.

“Certainly he was limited in what he could do," Ferentz said then. "He wasn’t going to run. But he wanted to compete. We certainly owed it to him.

"He’s had a tremendous career, and laid it out there for us, game in and game out.”

Read more from Cunningham's New York Times interview here.

Ferentz and the Hawkeyes open their season at 11 a.m. Saturday vs. Wyoming at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. The game will be broadcast on Big Ten Network.

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