Catching up with Ed Cunningham

In the midst of a recent conversation with former Husky and current ABC-TV broadcaster Ed Cunningham, the topic fell toward Washington football. Cunningham was asked how the rest of the Pac-10 was viewing Coach Keith Gilbertson's attempt to revive the UW's struggling program.

"Everyone was really impressed with the recruiting that was done," said Cunningham recently to "But I personally never put much weight into how good a recruiting class is until after its second or third year. But they did a nice job and brought in a lot of linemen, which they needed. To say that they can contend for the Pac-10 championship this year is a bit of stretch, but I think you'll see improvement.

"The biggest problem with the football program is that Rick (Neuheisel) ran this thing into the ground," continued Cunningham. "I truly believe that getting back to contending (for the conference championship) is still another 2-4 years away. The environment has definitely been changed, dramatically, in regards to discipline, which was something that was lacking under Neuheisel… And you never know what is going to happen with the new University President and new Athletic Director… People inherently want to bring in their own people. So the patience that is needed may not be afforded to Gilby—it's a ‘WIN-NOW' world and he understands that."

Cunningham has been serving a color commentator for ABC-TV, and last year covered games in the Big 10, Big XII and ACC conferences. The game he is still receiving comments on is the North Carolina State-Ohio State game, which was won by the Buckeyes in triple OT.

"I am a huge Phillip Rivers fan," said Cunningham of the NC State quarterback. "I think he will have an outstanding career at the next level… And in that particular game I had things to say that had people from both programs wanting to strangle me. On one hand, I don't think that there should ever be a time when you run two quarterback sneaks from the five-yard line (which NC State did in the third OT). On the other hand, I said some things about Ohio State's stadium that some people there didn't take kindly to."

Then Cunningham laughed. "I got more compliments from that game than any other game I've covered," he added. "You know you did a good job, when both sides hate you."

Cunningham was then asked how to rate three Huskies headed to the next level: Reggie Williams, Terry Johnson and Cody Pickett.

"Reggie will be the first of them to go, probably in the first round," he reflected. "I remember standing on the sideline of the Michigan game from 2001. I'll never forget it. I kept hearing about this new guy named Reggie Williams, and then he drops the first two passes thrown to him. I turned to a friend of mine and said, ‘Oh yea, this guy's real good. Can we now get someone else onto the field?'"

Cunningham felt that Terry Johnson had really set himself up well in the recent combines. "I was talking with (UW Strength coach) Steve Emtman, and he was saying that this kid is a really good athlete. There will be great interest in an interior defensive lineman with that kind of quickness."

What of Cody Pickett?

"I have always liked him. Now Cody definitely has something to prove, as he had a poor senior season. But he has all the tools to be a good QB. If I was a NFL general manager and I had a pick in the late third round or early fourth, I would snatch him up in a minute."

The topic switched over to basketball, and Cunningham was asked his thoughts about this year's Husky team.

"I started following them right at the point when they beat Arizona the first time (of three times). I was at my parents' house in Arizona, and watched the game with my Dad. Even from down there, I was catching the buzz. It is so much fun to watch a team that is so hard-nosed and athletic. There's a bunch of guys that play hard.

"Nate Robinson is clearly the heart and soul of the team, but they have several guys that play hard. You see them out there and every single player is going all out. It has been a long time since you could say that about a Husky basketball team."

As the interview drew to its conclusion, I brought out the big guns. Cunningham was asked what were the best and worst things about working with KJR Radio's Dave "Softy" Mahler each Tuesday during the football season (sponsored by of course).

"Oh, gawd!" exclaimed Cunningham, with the voice of someone who has just inhaled deeply from a putrid, spoiled box of Chinese take out food.

"I will start with the best part of working with Softy" said Cunningham. "I think that he is really good at his job. I enjoy working with him. He is very knowledgeable and really knows the local sports scene…"

And the worst part in dealing with Softy? Cunningham sounded almost glib in his response.

"The worst part in dealing with Softy is that every time I bust his chops on the air, he can never come up with a decent comeback… He can't come up with anything. You almost feel guilty in kidding with him, because he is like a defenseless little puppy."

Ed Cunningham has been busy lately, covering the Arena football league on the weekends, and recently filling in for a radio gig in San Francisco. So what's next for the former Husky Academic All-American?

"I used to do a radio show years ago for KISW called Rock and Roses. I have been toying with the idea of getting back into radio. I have received a couple of lukewarm offers that I'm considering. I would do this in addition to broadcasting (college football on television).

"So we'll see what happens."
Derek Johnson can be reached at Top Stories