Ian-Yates Cunningham: A View from the Radio Booth
Oct. 19, 2006
by Missy Jenkins, Student Assistant, UVa Athletics Media Relations
For Cavalier fans, it’s not uncommon to hear the name of a Virginia football player on the local radio station when commentators are analyzing a big game or predicting a victory. It is, however, not very often that you hear the voice of a Cavalier football player calling the play-by-play.
For Ian-Yates Cunningham, the Cavaliers’ starting right guard, it’s just another part of the job. A fourth-year from Plano, Texas, Cunningham has been working with local radio station WINA-AM since the summer of 2004.
“This past summer I produced a show. I’ve done interesting stories on local high school kids in Charlottesville,” Cunningham said. “During the fall and winter, I do color commentating for high school football and basketball. I do the pre-game and halftime shows. It’s not one set of things that I do.”
Cunningham’s flexibility on the radio is matched on the field. After missing the 2004 season because of back surgery and a slow return in the 2005 season, Cunningham is expected to have a large impact on Cavalier football at right guard – a change in position from earlier this year. Cunningham moved to the center position in the spring, but began the fall season playing right guard and backing up the center position.
Head coach Al Groh is well aware of Cunningham’s flexibility.
“He’s progressed to the point that if he can do something to help us, he’s available,” said Groh.
In between his own plays on the field, Cunningham is calling the plays on the radio for Charlottesville prep athletes. This interaction with local high school students is Cunningham’s favorite part of the job.
“I’m not from here; I’m from Texas yet I’ll watch TV, I’ll hear a name on high school sports, and I’ve covered that kid,” Cunningham said. “I’ll know what his favorite movie is, or I’ve seen him play football. It’s one of those things where I don’t have a direct connection with the community, but I’m able to go out there and talk about these kids and see them from that perspective.”
While you’d expect most local high school athletes to be star struck in the presence of a Cavalier football player, most of them hardly know who Cunningham is.
“I don’t even know if they know I’m a UVa football player,” Cunningham said. “I think they just look at me as this guy from WINA. They don’t know I have a life on the field.”
It’s Cunningham’s life on the field that has helped him succeed on the air.
“It’s great, because you can use the stuff you’re taught on the field, and you can talk about the moves that one player is doing and pick up things you hear along the way,” Cunningham said. “It’s watching TV, listening to the color commentating, and understanding the game so that you can do those types of things. It’s pretty beneficial, and that’s pretty cool.”
Though Cunningham enjoys his work in radio, he still isn’t sure what is in store for him after he graduates at the end of the semester.
“I have an ultimate goal,” he said. “It’s one of those things that hopefully I’ll be able to do. I want to be a general manager, but this is something I’d like to do later on.”
That would be a career where he could do more than just call the action. He would be the one calling all the shots.