Monday, September 13, 2010

Lee Corso still a Gamecocks hater?

The show was on location at Hooter's today.  If you don't already know, Lee Corso is now a national spokesman for that fine chain of restaurants, which is smart during football season.  Corso is well known and can be funny from time to time.  As coincidence would have it, the South Carolina football team is a legitimate contender for the SEC East this season, and I was asked over the weekend, after the Gamecocks' 17-6 win over Georgia, what Corso might say about the teams' chances now.

It reminded me that a couple of years ago I wrote a piece detailing what I thought of Coach Corso's outlook on the South Carolina program.  I'm reposting it today.  Let me know what you think...

Lee Corso is a professional.  He sells pencils.  The good kind, too.  He is also a broadcaster, and has been since the late 1970's.  He's called college games, Arena League, even the USFL.  He coached nearly a decade in the Big 10.  Oh, by the way, he's been on ESPN's College Gameday since the show's inception.  Here is some of what Corso's own website says about him:

"As College GameDay's national appeal has grown, Corso's opinions, analysis and daring predictions have become one of the most anticipated in sports television. In 2001, Sporting News magazine selected Corso as the 17th most influential person in college football. The magazine in January 2004 ranked Corso and fellow GameDay hosts - Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit - as 2003's 'Most Powerful Media Personalities in Sports.'
Corso, whose college roommate was actor Burt Reynolds, received four varsity letters in both football and baseball at Florida State. He is a member of the Hall of Fame at Florida State and University of Louisville. In June 2003, Corso was inducted into the state of Florida Sports Hall of Fame in St. Petersburg.
A graduate of Florida State University, Corso earned a bachelor of arts degree in physical education and a master's degree in administration and supervision."
So you can see, this is a man who is a decorated athlete, well educated student, respected coach, successful businessman and close friend of a Hollywood legend who has been cited by respected national publications as a major force in one of America's great sporting traditions.  And I'm told to treat him like a clown.

If I, or any of the tens of thousands of fans around the nation Corso riles each week with his opinion and prognostication, don't agree with his views, someone will say "Ignore it, he's Lee Corso."  After all, the guy puts mascot heads on every week.  For every team he picks for, he automatically must pick against another.  When it comes to the games he discusses each week on what is the best pregame show of ANY sport in the country, I agree - it's just his job.  A job everyone knows he's good at.  A job he, if no one else, takes very seriously.

But something different occured during a Gameday broadcast in Columbia a few years ago that to this day has many supporters of the University of South Carolina upset, including this author.  Corso, on day one of the Spurrier Era, proclaimed before the college football world that the Gamecocks could never win an SEC championship.  Ever.  

USC is using Corso's words against him in a marketing effort designed to boost revenues near the top of the conference, where Florida leads the way with an athletic budget of more than $75 million per school year.  USC is not the first and will not be the last to use Corso as a kind of "negative" motivation.  Corso doesn't like the fact that he's been singled out by USC in this particular case and can't seem to grasp what all the fuss is about.  It's just his opinion after all, he says, and it's based on fact.  He's right - to a point.

No one can argue that South Carolina football is anything more than it is.  Some highlight moments and big wins.  A good, but not great, NFL pipeline.  George Rogers and Sterling Sharpe.  1984.  Back-to-back at the Outback.  That's pretty much it, and because of that Corso told anyone willing to listen that Carolina would never win a title, even if Steve Spurrier "coached there 400 years."  That wasn't a prediction on a game, it was a prediction on a life, the football life of a big, proud southern school.

I wonder what "the experts" told Corso when he became the football coach at Louisville and Indiana, two basketball schools.  Probably something to the effect of you can't win there.  He did though, relatively speaking, because he believed he could.  He's glad, I'm sure, not to have followed the negative advice.

Say it will be incredibly difficult for USC to win a title when you factor in history and present competition, that Florida and Georgia will always have a recruiting edge based on numbers, and that young men want to play where years of winning are what they add to, not start.  All of that is true and no reasonable person could argue the point.  

Again, Corso said "can't."

Corso can say what he wants to anytime he wants to.  This is America.  Those who listen can choose to interpret his words how they want to for the same reason.  Corso, however, shouldn't act so shocked that the anger of Gamecock fans is focused at him on this issue.  He didn't say it will be hard, or take some time.  He said it cannot, under any circumstance, be done.  How should reasonable people respond when told they, and seemingly they alone, can't accomplish something never done solely because of who and where they are?

It's also worth noting that Corso earns part of his income through IMG as a motivational speaker.  I wonder how many times a company or civic group has had him come in and say "You can't, so don't try."  Considering he's still available to speak, I'd say never.  I realize he wasn't paid by USC that late summer day in 2005, but I would hope a man like that always had a positive, realistic outlook on life no matter the setting.  He may as well have said don't try to the Gamecock nation back in 2005, but he may not be that bold.

After all, making a prediction about a Saturday is one thing, making a prediction on a lifetime is something else.

Now in 2010, let's see if anything in Corso's outlook changes.  I don't believe it will.  There's still nothing in it for him.


  1. Corso is the reason College Gameday isn't the best sports show out there. And not b/c of his gamecock hate, b/c he is the least professional guy on the show. Didn't he promise to kneel in front of the student section if we won an SEC championship?

    Lets just wait for that day.

  2. We watched GameDay on Saturday from NC, (wished we were in Columbia!), but noticed how 'smug' Mr. Corso was when it was time to do the picks...The other 2 folks picked South Carolina, but Mr. Corso had no hesitation in picking Georgia. You don't know how happy I was to see that he was wrong in his selection... I was thrilled to read your blog and to know that I was not being one-sided in my opinion of how he came across on ESPN during the Gameday broadcast last Saturday, obviously, having a distaste for the Gamecocks.

    Jay, I had no idea of the prior history related to his comments regarding his opinion that USC could never win a SEC championship. Thank you for a very informative post that I will definitely share with my fellow South Carolina family and friends.

    Let's prove Corso wrong!!