ESPN analyst not calling games in 2017 because of concerns about football's safety

Ed Cunningham most recently teamed with Mike Patrick. (ESPN Images)

When ESPN released its announcer pairings for the 2017 college football season, Ed Cunningham wasn’t listed as an analyst for the network.

We now know why.

Cunningham told the New York Times that he resigned from his job at ESPN because of head trauma dangers of football.

“I know a lot of people who say: ‘I just can’t cheer for the big hits anymore. I used to go nuts, and now I’m like, I hope he gets up,’” Cunningham said. His eyes welled with tears. “It’s changing for all of us. I don’t currently think the game is safe for the brain. And, oh, by the way, I’ve had teammates who have killed themselves. Dave Duerson put a shotgun to his chest so we could study his brain.”

Cunningham had become one of the more recognizable college football analysts ESPN had. In recent years he had been paired with former Sunday Night Football announcer Mike Patrick for primarily Big Ten games.

Patrick will work with former college football coach and one-time possible Alabama governor candidate Tommy Tuberville in 2017.

A former NFL player, Cunningham said he made the decision to resign after ESPN laid off a significant portion of its workforce in April but didn’t say at the time that his fears about the game’s safety were a part of why he was leaving.

Studies on former NFL players’ brains have found that a vast majority have CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease that can be caused by head trauma. Though CTE can only be discovered posthumously, and it’s worth noting that many of those who have donated their brains to science did so because they were suffering.

Still, it doesn’t take much to believe that repeated head trauma is anything but beneficial, and that’s evidenced every time a stadium goes silent as a player lies motionless on the field and broadcasters solemnly describe the scene in front of them.

Repeated scenarios like that are a reason why Cunningham is stepping away from a job he admitted was “great.”

“I was being paid a really nice six-figure salary for not a lot of days of work, and a live television gig that, except for nonsports fans, people would beat me up to take,” Cunningham said. “I’m leaving a job that’s great. It’s not kind of good. It’s great.”

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of Dr. Saturday and From the Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!