Stroll Neighbor Spotlight: The Legendary Lee Corso

The March cover of Stroll Heathrow featuring Lee Corso

For three decades, Lee Corso of ESPN's College GameDay has called Heathrow his home, weaving himself into the fabric of this tight-knit community. This is Lee's story, as shared in the March issue of his neighborhood magazine, Stroll Heathrow.

A living legend in the world of college football, Corso’s warm presence and genuine affection for Heathrow have become the stuff of local lore.

A true family man, Corso, 67 years into a loving marriage with his wife Betsy, proudly boasts a family tree that spans four children, 10 grandchildren, and one cherished great-granddaughter. But beyond his familial ties, Corso’s closest companion is none other than Ed Fasula, a bond so deep it mirrors that of brothers.

Lee Corso is an American sports broadcaster and football analyst for ESPN and a former coach. He has been an analyst on ESPN's College GameDay program since its inception in 1987. Corso served as the head football coach at the University of Louisville from 1969 to 1972, at Indiana University Bloomington from 1973 to 1982, and at Northern Illinois University in 1984, compiling a career college football coaching record of 73–85–6.

Early Life and Playing Career

Corso was born in Cicero, Illinois to Italian parents. While speaking with him I could tell he was most proud of his 10 generations of FSU graduates!  Florida State University is in his blood and he speaks of his time there with such nostalgia.  He was a roommate of football player and actor Burt Reynolds and future University of Miami baseball coach Ron Fraser. While at FSU, Corso earned the nickname "Sunshine Scooter" for his speed on the football field. As a defensive player, he set the school record for most career interceptions.

Coaching Career

After college, Corso became the quarterbacks coach at Maryland. In 1962, Corso followed Nugent's guidance to recruit an academically and athletically qualified black player and convinced Darryl Hill to transfer from the Naval Academy, making him the first African-American football player in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

In 1966, Corso became the defensive backs coach at Navy. In 1969, he was named head coach at Louisville where he coached his ESPN colleague Tom Jackson. After taking Louisville to only its second-ever bowl game in 1970, he was hired by Indiana in 1972.

Corso coached at Indiana from 1973 to 1982, leading the Hoosiers to two winning seasons in 1979 and 1980. The 1979 regular season ended with 7–4 record and earned a trip to the 1979 Holiday Bowl. There the Hoosiers would beat the previously unbeaten Brigham Young Cougars. Indiana's victory over the Cougars propelled the team to 16th in the UPI poll, the Hoosiers' first top-20 ranking since 1967.

During one game in the 1976 season, Corso called a time-out after his team scored a touchdown early in the second quarter. The entire team huddled together for a photograph with the scoreboard filling the background. It read: Indiana 7, Ohio State 6. It was the first time in 25 years that the Hoosiers had led the Buckeyes in a football game. Ohio State would win the game 47–7.

Corso was the 16th head football coach at Northern Illinois University. In his lone season as Northern Illinois's head coach, Corso's record was 4–6–1.

After the stint at Northern Illinois, Corso made his professional football coaching debut for the Orlando Renegades of the United States Football League (USFL) in 1985. Corso was slated to return to the Renegades in the fall of 1986, but the league suspended operations before the season began.

Trophy Case

Broadcasting Career

In 1987, Corso was hired by ESPN as an analyst for its Saturday College GameDay program that, since 1993, had originated from the site of one of the day's big games. He often plays the role of comic foil to co-hosts Desmond Howard, Rece Davis, and Kirk Herbstreit as they cover the major college football games from August until January. Corso's catchphrase, "Not so fast, my friend!," with pencil always in hand, is usually directed at Kirk Herbstreit, in disagreement with Herbstreit's predictions. Corso also calls nearly everyone "sweetheart."

Corso is also known for ending every weekly show with his mascot headgear prediction, when he chooses who he thinks will win the game at GameDay's site by donning the headpiece of the school's mascot. It started on October 5, 1996, prior to the Ohio State-Penn State game in Columbus, Ohio, when he got the idea to don the OSU "Brutus Buckeye" mascot head to show his pick to win the game. Corso just made his 400th headgear pick in an emotional broadcast.

Veteran ESPN College GameDay staple Lee Corso says he has no current plans to retire and is back for the 2024 college football season.

"I'm gonna be like that guy in Vaudeville," Corso told GQ magazine. "They hook him around the neck, and they pull him off the stage as he keeps talking."

Personal Life

Lee is so extremely proud of living in Heathrow and of his wonderful family. Amidst shared laughter, Ed revealed a delightful quirk about the legendary figure – Lee’s technological challenges. According to Ed, attempting to reach Corso by phone often results in futile efforts, and when it comes to email, Lee is anything but a digital maestro. “Don’t leave a message,” Ed playfully warns, “because he will rarely get back to you.”

For many years, Team Corso consisted of the dynamic duo of Laura, Lee’s assistant, and Lee. When Dixon closed its office, it had an unexpected member – the one and only Ed Fasula. The intricacies of their collaboration are as fascinating as they are amusing.

Athletic directors and coaches from far and wide sent their team information and picks directly to Laura, who compiled them meticulously. Lee, in his technologically challenged glory, studied the data and dictated his thoughts to Laura. She then boldly printed the insights and sent them to Lee, creating a routine that rivals the efficiency of a well-oiled machine.

Laura’s transition to remote work after the closure of Dixon’s office added an extra layer of intrigue. No longer local to Heathrow, she now receives the coaches’ picks via email, forwarding them to Ed Fasula who personally delivers them to Lee in the “Classified Official Corso Mail Bag.”

The comedic timing of this process ensures Lee receives the information just in the nick of time to jet off to the airport and grace the screens of ESPN with his charismatic football commentary.

Beyond the gridiron, Lee and Ed find solace in their shared love for fishing, often competing on the recently christened Lake Corso in Heathrow. Their camaraderie is palpable, and being in their presence radiates the brotherly love they share.

In a community brimming with stories, Lee Corso stands as a living testament to the power of legacy, laughter, and love. Heathrow is not just a place for this legendary figure; it’s a home enriched by the indomitable spirit of a man who has become an integral part of its heart and soul.

This article originally appeared in the March 2024 issue of Stroll Heathrow. A big thanks to publisher Kaylie Oppedisano for sharing this amazing story.

Kaylie and Lee posing for a photo