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Lee Corso has been on ESPN’s College Gameday since 1987. He’ll be eighty years old at the start of next football season and he’s been on the show for 28 years. It’s an incredible run and along the way Corso has become a the rarest of things, a living legend on televised sports. Corso has been on television for so long that the vast majority of the people watching him have no real recollection of his coaching career. Corso’s last year coaching college football was 1984. I’m 35 years old, love college football, and don’t remember Corso as a coach at all. Chances are most of you reading this right now have no recollection of Corso as a coach either.
With last week’s announcement that Rece Davis would be replacing Chris Fowler as College Gameday’s host after 25 years, it got me wondering, who in the world replaces Corso? Because when you get right down to it, Corso’s the lifeblood of Gameday, he’s the integral DNA that made the show a tremendous success. How many other coaches have his love of absurdity, how many other guys could put on a mascot head hundreds of times and make it fresh time after time? Essentially, how do you replace an icon?
There isn’t an easy fix for College Gameday.
You guys deluged me with names after a replacing Corso mailbag question last week. I looked over all your suggestions and I also spent the weekend thinking about it. What if I were suddenly in charge of making the hire to replace one of the all-time greats on ESPN’s flagship show? Who would I take to replace Lee Corso on College Gameday?
Here are my 14 names:
1. Charles Barkley
I see this as a no-brainer. Sure, he’s not an expert in college football, but how much college football do you actually have to know on College Gameday? He watches the games and he could study match-ups a bit more during the week. He’d know enough to do the show. The important thing is he’d be funny as hell, fearless with his predictions, and could immediately continue the unique role that Corso had established on the show.
Plus, the entire country loves him.
If you can get Barkley, you get him. The only question is, would he do it?
2. Steve Spurrier
Spurrier’s going to retire soon and I’m not sure if he’d be willing to travel around the country doing a pregame football show. But if he was willing to do it and the timing was right, I can’t imagine a better coach to pick. He’ll say anything, he’s got a good sense of humor, he’s not afraid to piss people off, and he’s got a perfect accent.
Spurrier would be an incredible addition to the show. The only downside I could see is Spurrier turns seventy this year and he says he wants to coach for three or four more years. If that’s true, he’s not much younger than Corso and the timing probably wouldn’t work out.
3. Rick Neuheisel
Neuheisel is just 54 years old and he seems even younger. He’s been head coach of three Pac 12 schools, he’s funny, and he’s got the ability to break out his guitar and do a song every now and then, which seems like it would fit Gameday perfectly.
4. Les Miles
Did you know Les is 61 now? He’s kind of snuck up on his us age-wise. What if Les finally decides that he’s had enough football coaching? Can you imagine how much fun he’d be on television every week with Gameday? I mean, the guy’s crazy. He’ll do anything. He’ll say anything. Best of all, you have no idea what he’s going to say from one moment to the next. The potential here is incredible.
5. Derek Dooley
Does Dooley ever want to be a head coach again? Right now he’s the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver coach, but what if he decided he wanted to go back to television? He and Corso have almost the exact same career winning percentage as head coaches. Dooley’s hysterical, off beat, and clearly not afraid to look ridiculous. He’s still in his forties so you’d have him for a long time on the show.
Plus, his hair is fabulous.
6. Paul Finebaum
Finebaum’s essentially occupying the Corso role on the SEC’s pregame show now. He already spent a season with the Gameday crew two years ago. Why couldn’t he easily slide over to Gameday as Corso’s replacement? If you’re going outside the coach, player realm, he’s an easy call.
7. Petros Papadakis
Sure, Petros is a good buddy of mine, but from an objective perspective I’m not sure there’s anyone who could could put on a mascot head with more verve than Petros. He’s a former Pac 12 player which would make sense because you’ve got an SEC host, two Big Ten players, and a former SEC player all with substantial roles on the show. Why not Petros?
8. Tim Tebow
Tebow was pretty good in his first year on television. I think he’ll get better and better as he spends more time doing it. But you’ve already got a Heisman trophy winner on the show in Desmond Howard.
Plus, is it wrong to think that this is too many good looking dark haired white guys for one set? You’d have Rece Davis, Kirk Herbstreit, David Pollack, and Tim Tebow all of whom look like they’re members of the same hot fraternity. I mean, this is like the dreamiest college football cast possible — excluding, of course, the time Joel Klatt, Matt Leinart, and Brady Quinn all sat beside one another in Fox studios. It was impossible to look away. Postitively dreamy. By the way, everyone talks about how many attractive women there are in sports media. That’s true, but Brady Quinn is better looking for a guy than all of them are for women. Brady Quinn doesn’t even look real. He looks like a virtual reality simulation of what a hot quarterback is supposed to look like.
Anyway, you need some normal looking dudes somewhere on the set, right? (For instance my buddy Joel Klatt is incredibly good at college football analysis — maybe the best in the country — but if you put him in Corso’s role and sat him next to Herbstreit at the desk, the hotness factor would be too much. It would look like a boy band reunion tour.)
9. Lou Holtz
Holtz and Corso are the same age so I don’t think this is likely. Plus, I see this ending poorly when Holtz’s toothpick arms attempt to lift the Brutus the Buckeye head and he tips backwards in his chair and dies of a fall on set.
Nope, Lou’s locked into the studio.
10. Nick Saban
They love Nick Saban at ESPN. How big of an upset would it be if Saban retired from coaching to take over the Gameday job? And what if Saban, suddenly shorn of all coaching responsibilities, turned out to be incredibly lovable and funny on television? Has that ever happened before, where a guy underwent a total transformation once he left coaching to go on television? Saban’s posing for pictures with kids, always smiling, signing autographs in the middle of dinner, I’d love to see this happen.
11. Mark May
If you’re just going for pure unadulterated hate, this could actually be pretty entertaining.
Can you imagine Mark May in Columbus? I’d watch.
12. Mack Brown
Mack Brown is great, but he’s just too nice. I can’t imagine him ever saying anything remotely interesting. Corso’s got a little bit of an edge to him, Mack Brown hasn’t said a mean word to anyone since 1972.
13. Jesse Palmer
He’s also single.
I feel like there’s a decent chance Palmer would go Travis Henry on the Gameday set, sprinkling babies all over college campuses. He’s probably the only guy on this list who would lose money despite making over a million dollars on Gameday. Remember when Phil Fulmer got served a subpoena at SEC media days? Palmer would be lightheaded from all the blood samples he’d have to give. Palmer would be on conference calls, “I don’t know guys, we just went to Alabama last year. You really think we need to go back there this year?”
14. Houston Nutt
He might actually be crazy. Plus, he has that weird body movement where it always looks like he has to itch. That’s a recipe for great, awkward television.
I see Houston Nutt showing up for Gameday with his own musket.
That first week Gameday producers would be like, “Houston, we’re not at West Virginia or Tennessee this week, you don’t need the musket.”
And then Houston would be like, “Yes, I do.”
Here are my 14 suggestions.
Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below.