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Kevin Schnepf, Published September 20 2013

Schnepf: "College GameDay" boasts unique on-air personalities

FARGO - They are known for their predictions, so it only seemed fitting to ask the ESPN “College GameDay” celebrities this:

“Who would win this matchup: Lee Corso in his prime at Florida State or Desmond Howard in his prime at Michigan?”

Yes, we are talking about Lee Corso – the 78-year-old “GameDay” court jester who has made predictions wearing an elephant head, riding a motorcycle in a duck outfit or shooting off a 12-gauge shotgun. He’s expected to cover his face with a Bison head when he makes his predictions at the end of today’s show from downtown Fargo.

This is the same Lee Corso who in 1957 set the record for career interceptions as a defensive back at Florida State – a record that stood before a guy named Deion Sanders broke it. And this is the same Desmond Howard, another “GameDay” regular, who as a receiver and return specialist was a Heisman Trophy winner and a Super Bowl MVP in the 1990s.

So how about a prediction Chris Fowler (the “GameDay” host for the last 24 years)?

“The Heisman and Super Bowl MVP speak pretty loudly,” Fowler said, indicating Howard may have won this battle. “Times were different when Lee played and when Desmond played. Players got a little faster … but Corso was good for his day, I will say that.”

That may be hard to believe for all those NDSU college students who are expected to be among the throng that overtakes downtown Fargo this morning. Corso, who has been with “GameDay” since it began in 1987, was called the “Sunshine Scooter” whose teammate and roommate was actor Burt Reynolds.

Corso once quipped: “Burt always took the beautiful girl and he gave me the ugly one. But I found out early that Burt Reynolds’ ugly girlfriends were better than anything I could get on my own.”

So if you opted to avoid the sea of humanity on Broadway this morning, you can watch Corso’s shtick on TV from 8 to 11 this morning. Be ready for the unexpected – something Kirk Herbstreit has done since he joined the “GameDay” crew in 1996.

“He usually brings a live animal on the set, so I don’t know the odds of getting a live bison on there,” Herbstreit said. “I am always alert when Lee makes his pick. This is a week where I will be very alert.”

Herbstreit was a quarterback at Ohio State in 1992, before “GameDay” took its show on the road. But he does remember how Corso and analyst Craig James got him pumped up for a night game at Syracuse.

“They were saying we had no chance, that the Big Ten is big and slow and they are going up against a red Corvette,” Herbstreit recalled. “I don’t think I ever played in a game in which our team was more motivated than that game – and it had nothing to do with what our coach said but it had everything to do with what these guys on TV were saying.”

Ohio State won the game. Now, Herbstreit finds himself providing the same kind of fodder. He said he has even had coaches urging him to ridicule his players – with hopes of motivating them.

“I’ve never gone that far, but I definitely appreciate when we say things on TV how players can use that for motivation,” said Herbstreit, who said he got chills when he saw the video of the ESPN trucks and buses being greeted by hoards of Bison fans earlier this week.

“I was blown away,” Herbstreit said. “I think America will be shocked when they see the passion that the folks in Fargo have for their Bison.”

Perhaps as much passion as the 78-year-old who some still call the “Sunshine Scooter.”


Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

or kschnepf@forumcomm.com