Q: I get a kick out of Lee Corso selecting the head of a school’s mascot when he does his pick on College GameDay. How did that tradition start, and does anyone keep up with his record of picks?
A: I was asked this by a major football fan, and, being a major fan myself, I was intrigued. I also get a charge out of Corso’s weekly pick, which is how ESPN’s College GameDay traditionally ends.
First, for those not familiar with the program, GameDay comes on Saturday mornings during football season. It provides a preview of the day’s upcoming games and is done in a fun setting because they broadcast live from outside the stadium where a big game is about to be played that day.
Typically, Corso and fellow GameDay analysts pick who they think will win a few select games. The pick for the game where they are broadcasting live is the final pick, and Corso is the final picker.
Rather than simply naming his selection, though, he dons the school’s mascot head. If it’s the home team’s, the crowd goes nuts. If it’s the visiting team, they vigorously boo and Corso often responds with some good-natured taunting while still wearing the head.
So, how often is he correct? According to an ESPN article on Corso, it’s actually pretty impressive: he’s right 68 percent of the time.
As for how the tradition started, that article, which was written in 2011 just before he was about to make his 200th mascot-head pick of his career, states Corso, a jovial retired coach, joined ESPN in 1987 when GameDay was started.
At first, the show took place in ESPN’s studios. However, the show decided to broadcast live outside Notre Dame Stadium for the 1993 Notre Dame-Florida State game. The response was huge, and ESPN eventually started doing that for all games.
Corso started his mascot picks before the Ohio State-Penn State game in 1996.
In the article, Corso explains how it began: “Brutus the Buckeye walked by (analyst Kirk Herbstreit) the day before the show. I said to Kirk, if you get me that mascot head, I will put it on tomorrow. I won’t have to say anything and they will know who I pick. So that is how it began. The crowd, the truck and ESPN went crazy, and I said I think I have something here!”
Staff Writer Bernie Delinski writes Just Ask, which runs Wednesdays in the TimesDaily. If you’ve got a question, email it to bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com, call him at 256-740-5739 or fax it to 256-740-4717.