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

Aaron Young
Hawk Central

Former ESPN broadcaster Ed Cunningham brought heat to the Hawkeye coaching staff once more Friday morning.

Fomer Iowa quarterback CJ Beathard holds the back of his leg after he pulled his hamstring running his way near Florida's goal line in the Outback Bowl on Monday, Jan. 2, 2017, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

Cunningham, who revealed to The New York Times in a story Wednesday that Iowa football's handling of ex-quarterback C.J. Beathard during the Outback Bowl drove him to quit —  joined Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic early Friday on ESPN's "Mike and Mike" radio show (heard on KRNT-AM in Des Moines). He said Beathard "took a pounding" against a "superior opponent" in the Gators during the Outback Bowl in January.

He called the whole situation "sickening." 

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Beathard — now with the San Francisco 49ers — was hobbled after taking a series of hard tackles. He suffered a pulled hamstring but remained on the field until the final three minutes of the Hawkeyes' 30-3 loss.

Cunningham said he almost went on a mini-rant during the broadcast.

"It's not that I kind of felt bad for C.J. Beathard," Cunningham said on the show, "I wanted to go get in a fist fight with the coaches over it because they abused that kid, flat-out."

He added that seeing it all happen right in front of him was hard.

"That bowl game with C.J Beathard ... if I was his dad, I probably would have gone down at halftime and pulled the head coach out and said, 'Dude, you've got to not play my son. You can't do this to him. He's hurt.'

"And you can't do that as a color analyst."

Beathard's father, Casey Beathard, responded to Hawkeye columnist Chad Leistikow about Cunningham's comments:

"That's tough," Casey Beathard wrote. "CJ is great (at) convincing coaches he can go. I don't (and) he will never fault those coaches or any other coach for possible dangerous situations. I bet it has never crossed his mind.

"He's THAT kind of competitor. I guess the coaches trusted him too much. It's all good."

You can listen to the full "Mike and Mike" segment here.


Cunningham recently resigned from a visible job in sports broadcasting prior to the start of this year's college football season because of the damage inflicted on players during the games he covers.

He was the captain of Washington's national championship team in 1991 and was later selected in the third round of the NFL Draft. Cunningham spent nearly 20 years as a broadcaster for ESPN and ABC before calling it quits.

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

The Hawkeyes open their 2017 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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