He is the face of the wildly popular College GameDay, inventor of wearing the headgear of his weekly pick of one of the teams playing as the show’s host university and ESPN’s beloved “Coach.”
But who exactly is Lee Corso and was he really a coach? Here’s a look at the coaching and playing career of this legendary college football personalty.
Lee Corso The Player
Corso played football and baseball at Florida State where he was nicknamed “Sunshine Scooter” for his speed. His roommate was halfback Burt Reynolds. As a defensive player, he set the school record for most career interceptions (14) which, as pointed out on a recent GameDay, is tied with Deon “Neon” Sanders for what is now second on the school’s all-time list.
Lee Corso’s Coaching Career & Record
Corso began his coaching career in 1962 as quarterbacks coach at Maryland at the invitation of his Florida State coach, who became head coach of the Terps. While there, he recruited the first black players in ACC history. In 1966 he moved onto Navy where he coached defensive backs.
He made his head coaching debut at Louisville in 1969 and in his second year, took the Cards to their second-ever bowl game. That was in an era when few teams were invited to bowls. In four years he was a very successful 28-11-3, including 9-1 his final year that resulted in a $18 ranking in the Associated Press poll. One of his players was Tom Jackson, who went on to have a successful pro career with the Denver Broncos and later wound up at ESPN.
Corso’s longest coaching stint was at Indiana, which hired him away from Louisville. He was there from 1973-1892. Like most football coaches at IU, he found success hard to come by and was 41-68-2. He did go 8-4 in 1979 and in winning the Holiday Bowl handed BYU it’s only loss of the year.
He was always know for a good laugh and had a sense of humor about this, which made him a favorite of the media. For example, soon after he was hired at Indiana he coaxed USC – a powerhouse at the time – to play at game in Bloomington. When asked at an alumni and boosters banquet why the heck he would schedule a power like USC when he was trying to build a program he deadpanned “because when I took this job, I promised you that I would bring a Rose Bowl team to Indiana.” That broke up the house.
After Indiana, he spent one year at Northern Illinois where he was 4-6-1.
Lee Corso’s ESPN Career
In what turned out to be one of the most astute hires in ESPN history, the network brought on Corso to serve initially as a GameDay analyst. Perhaps whomever did the hiring remembered that Rose Bowl line.
He first donned the headgear at the Penn State-Ohio State game on Oct. 5, 1996 when he had asked sidekick Kirk Herbstreit – whose wife was a former Ohio State cheerleader – to see if he could get the headgear of mascot “Brutus Buckeye.” This wild, never-seen-before antic became an instant hit and is THE iconic moment of College GameDay.
College football fans like to day that “college football Saturday doesn’t begin until Corso puts on the headgear” and often cheer if he chooses their team. “Corso picked (so-and-so),!” they boast to fellow fans and on social media.
Corso also has a catchphrase making his picks on the show of “not so fast, my friend,” mostly directed at Herbstreit.
To many, Lee Corso IS college football, the way broadcaster Keith Jackson was to a previous generation.