Lee Corso: Child of Non-English Speaking Immigrants Who Became an American Icon

Happy 84th birthday to one of America’s greatest Icons: Mr. Lee Corso.

Every saturday in the fall, over two million college football fans tune in to watch Mr. Corso on ESPN’s “College Gameday.”  His first appearance on the popular show was in 1987, and since then he has been the main attraction.  His knowledge, wit, and passion are the centerpiece of the show, which culminates with Mr. Corso putting on the head gear representing the team he predicts will win the big game at the site of the broadcast that particular Saturday.  The question “who did Corso pick today?”  is a staple at college tailgates and barrooms across the country.  It is embedded firmly in  college football culture.

What many people do not know is the story behind this great American treasure.

Lee’s  dad Allesandro fled Italy with a second grade education at the outbreak of World War One. His mother Irma was also an Italian immigrant. She had a fifth grade education. Neither spoke English. Allesandro worked as a laborer who laid tile, and Irma worked in school cafeterias.

Lee was born in 1935, and was an outstanding athlete. He was offered $5000 to sign with the Brooklyn Dodgers when he left high school. His father wouldn’t allow it. He said, “You have the opportunity to go to college and get and education for free. You have to take that, and make something of yourself.”

So instead, Lee accepted a scholarship to Florida State, where he played football and was nicknamed, “The Sunshine Scooter.” His college roommates were the famous actor Burt Reynolds, and Ron Fraser who would become the very successful baseball coach at the University of Miami.

Photo Credit: Tomahawk Nation

He then coached College football for 25 years, including stops as the head coach at Louisville and University of Indiana.

Photo Credit: Helmet Hut

In 1987 he was hired to be a co-host of ESPN’s “College Gameday.”
Photo Credit: ESPN

In May of 2009 he suffered a stroke, but battled through rehabilitation to continue on with the show that fall.

If everyone approached their lives and jobs like Lee Corso, the world would be a much better place.

I’m thankful for Mr. Corso, and thankful his parents went to a place where he was allowed to flourish.

Also, Mr. Corso has been married to his wife for 62 years.

One more thing: he is now the director of development for Dixon Ticonderoga, the company that makes number 2 pencils. You will often see one in his hand during “College Gameday.”

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