Life is good for ESPN GameDay mainstay Lee Corso

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Life is good for ESPN GameDay mainstay Lee Corso

Published Thursday, November 15, 2012   |  688 Words  |  

I thought I was stating the obvious when I said, "It looks like the Southeastern Conference is going to be shut out of the BCS championship game for the first time in seven years."

"Not so fast, my friend," replied Lee Corso, who has made that his signature line on ESPN's College Game Day show Saturday mornings during the football season.

I have known Corso since 1952 when, as a cub sports writer, I reported his games as a quarterback at Miami Jackson High School. And I followed his career as a player at Florida State and coach at Louisville and Indiana.

In a phone interview from his home in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday, Corso warned, "Don't count the SEC out of the picture. The winner of the Alabama-Georgia game just might sneak in there."

So how does he rate the three unbeaten teams?

"Right now, I've got Oregon number one, Notre Dame two and Kansas State three," he said, "but Alabama and Georgia still have a chance."

Corso has been known to change his mind rather quickly.

Last Saturday when he (correctly) picked Texas A&M to upset Bama, his Game Day partners, Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit jumped all over him.

"When did you come up with that one, an hour ago?" Herbstreit asked.

But Corso got the last laugh, and it just might be a topic of conversation Saturday when the ESPN crew reports from Eugene, Ore., where Stanford will take a shot at the undefeated Ducks.

Corso says he is leaning toward a Notre Dame-Alabama matchup in the BCS title game in Miami. That would mean both Oregon and Kansas state would have to lose a game and ND would have to beat Southern Cal.

"It's still wide open," he said, reserving the right to change his mind at any hour. And let's be clear about this -- Corso is not influenced by any rooting interests. This is in contrast to fellow ex-coach and ESPN employee, Lou Holtz, who has predicted a national championship for Notre Dame in each of the last five seasons.

This is Corso's 25th year at ESPN (with a new two-year contract) and at age 77 he considers himself "one lucky guy."

Three years ago he suffered a severe stroke that robbed him of speech and partial use of his right arm and leg. He went to work with therapists and in less than four months he was back on the air.

Lee says the support he gets from Fowler, Herbstreit and Desmond Howard fueled his determined rehabilitation.

"They are wonderful people. They carry me," Corso said. "We are a good team. Each has his own way of doing things. There are no ego problems."

Of course, Corso is the class clown, with curtain-closing picks while donning mascot heads and other props.

This season his schticks have included using live animals such as an alligator, rooster, a couple of dogs and, last Saturday, a goat. For a Notre Dame game, he dressed up in the team's green leprechaun outfit and did the Irish jig.

Corso says he was fortunate from day one to work with partners who made him better. He says he was "flying by the seat of my pants" when he got lucky to be paired with Beano Cook in the early days at ESPN.

Cook, a mutual friend, died in October. Corso paid tribute to him on his next Game Day telecast.

"I could never have made it without Beano," Lee said. "He was a tremendous help in my transitioning to TV."

Corso says he has recovered "pretty good from my stroke," largely because he has cut all his ESPN duties except Game Day. "When I rest, I can talk. When I can't rest, I can't talk."

On his telephone message machine, his "signoff" says it all:

"Life is good."