Behind The Scenes

ESPN’s Corso: One man, many heads

Today in East Lansing, Mich., on College GameDay (9 a.m. ET ESPNU, 10 a.m. ESPN), football analyst Lee Corso will make his 200th headgear selection.

He will have his choice of Wisconsin’s Bucky Badger or host Michigan State’s Sparty. His end-of-the program selection is dramatic and will be cheered or jeered by the thousands gathered behind the GameDay set, hours before No. 6 Wisconsin (6-0, 2-0) at Michigan State (5-1, 2-0) meet at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

On Oct. 18, Front Row published an interview with Corso, a 25-year GameDay veteran, on the tradition that began in the 1990s.

As you can see in the pictures in that post and in the ones above, Corso makes his selections with gusto.

Check out these statistics provided by GameDay producer Carolyn Rauen, entering today’s historic selection:

-Corso is 137-62 overall (correct 68.8 percent of the time)
-Corso has picked Florida the most (17), followed by USC and Ohio State (tied at 15 each)
-Corso’s best record is 15-0 with USC
-Corso has been wrong the most with Florida State (6-6), but worst overall record is with Georgia (0-3).
-Corso is 2-1 when he picks the Wisconsin Badger (correct in 2010 vs Ohio State and 2004 vs Penn State, wrong in 2003 vs Purdue)
-Corso is 1-0 when picking Michigan State (10/9/99 vs Michigan)
-Corso is 6-1 this year (only loss when picking Nebraska at Wisconsin in week 5).
-Corso has picked against Oklahoma the most (13), followed by Notre Dame and Ohio State (12 each)
-Florida has been on GameDay the most (31, he has picked them 17/31 times)
-He has always been wrong with 9 teams: Georgia (0-3), Iowa (0-2), and 7 teams at 0-1.
-He has always been right with 15 teams: USC (15-0), Virginia Tech (4-0), TCU (3-0), Notre Dame (2-0), and 11 teams at 1-0.
-He has picked 45 different schools in 199 total picks
-Pac-12 is the only conference to have all current member schools appear on Gameday (Colorado and Utah appeared as members of previous conferences)
-Longest win streak was 15 games from 9/28/99 to 9/30/00.

Here are some quotes from Corso’s peers:

“He was a much better coach than anyone will give him credit for. [He was an] outstanding tactician of the game [and had a] great understanding of people. [He was] able to motivate beyond anyone I’ve been around. (I was) blessed to have him as my coach. [When we did] three-a-days in pads in the heat of summer, he wasn’t nearly as funny as he is now putting on those mascot heads on Saturday mornings.”
– ESPN football analyst, NFL Pro Bowler and former player under Corso at Louisville Tom Jackson

“There are certain things that are an integral part of college football…the band, pregame tailgates, and College GameDay. And when you think of GameDay, you think of Lee Corso and his headgear picks.” 
– ESPN analyst and former Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz

“Coach Corso’s love and respect for College Football and for those who play is clear every time he talks. College Football has never been more popular. Thanks in part to great ambassadors of the game like Coach Corso.” – ESPN analyst and former Florida head coach Urban Meyer

“Coach Corso has consistently brought extraordinary color to the broadcast of college football and remains one of a kind.” – Seattle Seahawks head coach and former USC head coach Pete Carroll

“Lee Corso is a very good friend of mine, and I can’t think of a more enthusiastic and truly happy person than Lee. Lee has always been a great showman – as a coach, a speaker and a commentator. While he was coaching, he waved a white flag one time – I guess to surrender! Another time, I think he came out with a chicken or a dadgum rooster tied around his neck. By putting on those different hats every week when making his predictions, Lee has kept college football FUN, you know it? The game has become such a huge business, but on Saturday’s at noon, thank goodness we’ve got Lee Corso to keep college football in its proper perspective.” – former Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden

“Part of the reason the fans love college football is because of Lee Corso. He brings a great amount of enthusiasm and passion to the game and you can see and hear it every Saturday morning. As a player, coach and an analyst, Lee has given more than half a century of his life to improving young people and his contributions can’t be measure.” – Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino

“It’s an amazing feat and he’s an amazing ambassador for college football. He’s one of the guys that helped pioneer making college football as popular as it is today. He’s one of the true icons of the broadcasting business. ” – Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher

“Lee Corso is a tremendous asset to college football. His experience as a coach gives him insight into the game and his sense of humor and personality help him to deliver that insight in a way that the audience can understand and enjoy.” – Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy

“Lee Corso has been a mouth piece for all of the good things about college football over the years. His passion is a great representation of how so many of us involved with the sport feel and his connection with the fans through his time on television has made him a staple of Saturdays. As a fellow coach, I’d like to thank him for his contribution throughout the years.” – USF head coach Skip Holtz

“Coach Corso is known on GameDay for his humor, but it’s his knowledge of the game and his understanding of what coaches go through that makes him so respected by coaches, players and college football fans all over the country.” – Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson

“I appreciate Coach Corso because he is a football man. He has made himself an entertainer too, but he is definitely a football man and I am proud to be associated with him. He is talented, passionate and wise and his impact on college football has been profound. Thanks, Coach, for all you have done for the game.” – Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops

“For me personally, I’ve known Coach for a long time — first, as a college coach and, now an energetic television personality. He has always been a mentor for me and a great friend. When I was a young head coach, he was a guy that I could call and ask questions and he would give me great advice. He has been has been a strong supporter for me for many, many years and I truly appreciate that.

“As a coach, he was a guy that no matter how challenging the job he faced, he took it on with passion, turned things in a positive direction and had success. I admired him for that and how he easily transitioned from coaching into becoming a legendary icon as the co-host on College GameDay. He brings great knowledge to his role and always puts together some unique stats that help put that week’s game in perspective for all of the fans watching.

“Coach has given everyone so much fun and joy to fans of college football with his tradition of putting on the mascot headgear for his picks. That’s something that has taken on a life of its own. There’s nothing like having Coach on your campus, wearing that mascot head as he picks you to win the game. He has a lot of fun with it and we do too.” – Texas head coach Mack Brown

“Lee Corso has a tremendous passion and energy for college football that is obvious to anyone that watches ESPN College GameDay. He has been a tremendous ambassador for the game of college football and we appreciate everything that Lee has done and continues to do for this great game.” 
– Auburn head coach Gene Chizik

“Coach Corso’s genuine enthusiasm and high energy level have been tremendous for college football… thanks for all you do!” – Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz

“Lee Corso has been a key figure in the rise of College Football on TV and a key player for ESPN. He is nationally known for his predictions and putting on the mascot headgear. Everyone in the country enjoys listening to Coach Corso and he does an excellent job relaying the facts and also providing entertainment.” – South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier

“Lee Corso has unquestionably played a huge role in the rise in popularity of college football to where it is today. I have great respect for everything he has done for the game, from his days as an athlete to a coach, and certainly as a broadcaster. It’s been fun for Mizzou fans to see him put on a Truman the Tiger head in the past, and we certainly congratulate him on his milestone anniversary!” – Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel

“Lee Corso’s enthusiasm is contagious and he’s a significant reason college football is one of the most popular sports in America today.” — Georgia head coach Mark Richt

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