In May of last year, ESPN personality Lee Corso, without warning, encountered a fierce opponent that threatened to rob him of his famed loquaciousness.
Sitting on the front porch of his Florida home, Corso suddenly experienced a stroke that was caused by a blockage to a small artery.
The stroke was considered minor, and after months of recovery, Corso fulfilled his promise that he would not be deterred in assuming his responsibilities as ESPN’s most colorful college football analyst. So, there he was, providing television viewers with his insightful — and sometimes wacky — commentary the morning of the Alabama-Virginia Tech game on Sept. 5.
Corso was right; he didn’t miss a game. But for those who have long been viewers of ESPN’s wildly popular College Gameday, you could tell that perhaps all was not right with the show's well-known middle-man, the balancing force between the stateliness of host Chris Fowler and the youthful sophistication of co-analyst Kirk Herbstreit.
As the 2009 college football season wore on, the lingering effects of Corso’s stroke became more and more apparent. He stumbled over words, relied often on sentence fragments, and seemed much too out-of-sync with the rest of the broadcast team for nothing to be wrong.
In my opinion, ESPN is now at a crossroads in terms of keeping or releasing Corso. He’s been a fixture at the Worldwide Leader since 1987, and fans have loved him every step of the way.
The network has been wise in monitoring Corso’s workload since his stroke, but, ultimately, the best move may be to allow the 74-year-old former college football head coach to ride off into the sunset, free to spend his time as a husband, father, and shrewd business man (Corso’s the director of business development at Dixon Ticonderoga, a manufacturer of No. 2 pencils).
But assume for a second that Corso, who strikes me as a man who would be willing to cover college football until the day he died, would go quietly. Who then would attempt to fill his shoes? Or mascot head?
Here’s list of candidates.
Source: ESPN and Orlando Sentinel
The former University of Florida quarterback is an intriguing pick, if for no other reason than he is well-connected in the ESPN family.
Palmer already has an established rapport with Fowler, with whom he works as an analyst on ESPN’s broadcasts of college football on Thursday evenings. However, it’s doubtful Palmer would be the network’s selection should Corso be let go or decide to leave College Gameday.
The 31-year-old bears a striking resemblance to Herbstreit, not only in terms of age (Herbstreit is nine years Palmer’s senior) but passionate and thorough analysis, and it’s likely ESPN won’t want to disturb the dynamic between old-school and new-school philosophies that is currently shared between Corso and Herbstreit.
Plus, who’s to say Palmer isn’t all but entrenched in his Saturday afternoon duties alongside John Saunders in the ABC studios?
I throw this one out there because as one of ESPN’s most-recognized writers, Feldman seems to carry a lot of cache.
The author of two acclaimed books — including “Meat Market: Inside The Smash-Mouth World Of College Football Recruiting” — he clearly knows his stuff, and his wildly popular blog at ESPN.com, as well as his densely-trafficked Twitter account (which features more than 8.500 followers), indicate he’s down with College Gameday’s key demographic.
But there’s one drawback that may prevent Feldman from ever being a consistent television presence — and it’s not his mug. In this writer’s honest opinion, Feldman doesn’t have the voice for broadcast.
Granted, he could benefit from some tutelage, but I don’t know if the raw energy, emotion, and pageantry that characterizes Saturday mornings on ESPN correlates with Feldman’s dry tone and what may be easily mistaken as a lack of enthusiasm.
Photo credit: BruceFeldman.com
If Feldman can put people to sleep with his inflectionless tone, then Cowherd will keep you up at night with his looks. The man isn’t exactly Don Juan, but as one of ESPN Radio’s best, he knows his football, and he’s not afraid to ruffle some feathers while laying it all out on the table.
It’s a bit difficult to imagine how Cowherd would seamlessly slip in-between Fowler and Herbstreit on the CG set, but his knack for stirring the pot and telling people what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear, would be a welcomed addition to kick off football Saturdays.
Plus, it’s not like the guy doesn’t come equipped with some TV experience to supplement his exploits over the airwaves. As a sports anchor at Tampa Bay’s WTVT-TV, Cowherd won a local Emmy for his work on the popular show Buc Sunday.
Photo credit: Jacqueline Purdy/ESPNRadio.com
It’s common knowledge that ESPN seldom passes on a former player to fulfill an analyst position, and Klatt would be a perfect addition to the College Gameday crew.
Not yet 30 years of age, Klatt is young enough to be distinguished from the 40-year-old Herbstreit, and his knowledge and understanding of college football’s complexities is impressive.
If you’re a fan of the Big 12, you no doubt remember Klatt from his days as the starting quarterback at Colorado from 2002-05, but you may also be aware that he is by far the best television presence inside the Dallas studios at Fox Sports Net.
And he’s even tried his hand at color commentary, working his first-ever broadcast as a color commentator on FSN’s presentation of the Colorado-Colorado State game last September.
Klatt has the look and sound of an up-and-coming broadcaster, but would ESPN agree to roll the dice on a candidate whose experience has just begun to build?
Also, Klatt is presently under contract with Fox Sports Rocky Mountain, where he not only does high school football games but performs duties before and after Colorado Rockies games.
Photo credit: rockymountain.fsninsider.com
Like Palmer, James would seem to be a natural fit on College Gameday because of his current working relationship with Fowler.
After all, he’s done it before, holding down a studio analyst spot on the cast from 1991-96, before the program established itself as the traveling circus it is today.
James is a charismatic figure, and his ability to share banter with Fowler and Herbstreit has been demonstrated in the past. It’s unlikely ESPN would let James’ involvement in the legal battle between Texas Tech and former head coach Mike Leach affect the way in which it determines the scope of James’ services, and rightfully so.
Still, you have to wonder how involved James will be with the game of football should he decide to satisfy his political interests and run for the open senate seat in his native Texas later this year.
Photo credit: Scout.com
Be honest: How many of you were waiting for this one? I suppose it was only a matter of time.
As ESPN’s highest-profile personality, male or female, Andrews deserves the right to have her name brought up when it comes to a promotion within the Worldwide Leader’s on-air staff.
Granted, I don’t know whether Andrews is familiar enough with the intricacies of the game to warrant a key analyst job, but her mere presence would do wonders for ratings, and the raucous crowds that engulf the College Gameday set each weekend would only get more rowdy and increase their testosterone levels ten-fold.
An esteemed veteran of television broadcasting, Musburger brings an unparalleled amount of experience to the table, having spent the better part of the last five decades years thriving as a play-by-play man for a variety of networks.
Currently the lead man on ABC’s premiere college football broadcast, Musburger would provide College Gameday with a venerable presence, but it’s questionable whether his personality is versatile enough to play off of that of both Fowler and Herbstreit.
Also, Musburger accepting a role on the show would likely include some shuffling of the current operations at ABC and ESPN, which include Musburger serving as the crown jewel of the network’s team of broadcasters .
As it stands now, broadcast partners Musburger and Herbstreit aren’t always in the same city the day of their Saturday night broadcast. If College Gameday is broadcast from a locale other than where the Saturday night game is held, Herbstreit spends the day traveling, sometimes across the country, to unite with Musburger.
To lessen the 70-year-old Musburger’s travel, would his bosses agree to hold the popular pregame show and each Saturday night’s marquee game in the same town every week?
Or would Musburger be open to the idea of jettisoning from one point on the map to another at different stages of the season?
Photo credit: Getty Images
Of all the ESPN employees on this list, Holtz makes the most sense.
At 73, he is nearly the same age as Corso, and he’s shown there still more than enough coherent spunk left in that otherwise frail Irish frame.
But even more, Holtz brings a dynamic that nearly mirrors that of Corso, in that he comes from yesteryear’s mode of thinking and he isn’t afraid to tell us all how much better things were with the game of college football back then.
As long as everything isn’t “Notre Dame this and Notre Dame that” on the College Gameday set, I’m picking Holtz. Because God knows we get enough of that South Bend propaganda from Lou as the studio analyst on ESPN’s College Football Live.
Photo credit: Associated Press
If Corso were to leave College Gameday, either on his own volition or as the result of a managerial decision, we don’t necessarily have to replace him with anybody, do we?
First off, Corso has given ESPN more than 20 years of loyal service, so it would only seem fitting that the network honor that loyalty by leaving his post vacant, at least for a season or so.
Secondly, lost in this list of candidates is the fact that even without Corso, College Gameday features a strong three-man team that includes Desmond Howard, who is more than capable of picking up the slack without having to step directly into Corso’s role.
Photo credit: Penn State Live
You’re damn right, it’s Mike Leach. The loose-lipped and no-holds-barred former head coach of Texas Tech would be a phenomenal addition that would add a little spice to Fowler and Herbstreit's relative blandness.
Love him or hate him, you can’t help but listen to what comes hurdling out of his mouth.
Something tells me ESPN bringing Leach on-board would be wishful thinking and nothing more than a cheap publicity stunt, especially considering Leach’s animosity toward Craig James and the whole network in general.
Nonetheless, it would be fun to wake up to Leach’s sour puss every Saturday morning, wouldn’t it?
Given his volatile personality, Leach is to college football what Bobby Knight is to college hoops. You’re vested his opinions no matter how wholeheartedly you may agree or disagree, and the result of that attraction is a spike in College Gameday’s already significant ratings figures.
Photo credit: Associated Press